The network’s debate ― which aired Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. local time from Las Vegas ― averaged more than 19.6 million television viewers, making it the most watched Democratic debate in history, according to NBC. That number includes 5.3 million viewers in the 25-54 age range, which NBC said also made Wednesday’s event the top-rated Democratic debate ever in that key demographic.
“NBC’s digital performance also exceeded any of the network’s major political live events since the 2016 election,” the network said in a press release. “The debate live stream generated 13.5 million live video streams and nearly 22 million video views across all platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, NBC News NOW on OTT devices, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The digital streams translate to an average audience of 417K viewers.”
NBC said the network got the numbers from Nielsen Fast National Data.
Wednesday’s debate was arguably the most fiery yet in this election cycle, with almost every candidate on stage refusing to hold back punches ― especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Democrat went after virtually every other candidate, particularly billionaire media mogul and former Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who quickly crashed and burned in his debate debut Wednesday.
“So I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians’ ― and no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said just minutes into the debate.
The night also brought out the long-simmering tension between Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with the two politically moderate Midwestern candidates repeatedly jabbing each other over experience and intelligence levels.
The remaining two candidates were former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the latter of which is rising in the polls and looks poised to win the next primary contest. The senator faced attacks on several subjects during the debate, including on issues like “Medicare for All,” his democratic socialist ideology and a portion of his supporters who are notoriously aggressive online.
The debate was moderated by Lester Holt of “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC”; Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press”; NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson; Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc; and Jon Ralston of The Nevada Independent. The event came three days before the caucuses in Nevada, the third state to count delegates in the primary race after Iowa and New Hampshire.