NEW YORK -- CNN drew an average of 15.3 million viewers for Tuesday night's Democratic debate, setting a ratings record for the party but falling short of the two most recent Republican events.
The previous most-watched Democratic debate on cable news took place on CNN in January 2008, with 8.3 million viewers, while the top-rated on broadcast television occurred three months later on ABC, with 10.7 million viewers. The debate Tuesday also averaged 4.8 million viewers in the key 25-54 age demographic, which is also a record.
The first Democratic debate wasn't expected to top this election cycle's two Republican debates, each of which were surely boosted by a provocative and unpredictable reality star turned frontrunner, Donald Trump. Fox News drew 24 million viewers for its August debate, while CNN wasn't far behind at 23.2 million last month.
Still, the record-breaking numbers for a Democratic primary debate indicate a heightened interest in the 2016 election across the board, even in a primary in which three of the five candidates on stage have little national name recognition.
In addition to television viewers, CNN announced that its live stream of the event peaked at 980,000 concurrent streams, beating the recent Republican debate and all previous live news events.
CNN host and debate moderator Anderson Cooper drew mostly rave reviews for his performance, including repeatedly urging candidates to respond specifically to questions. Still, CNN faced charges of tokenism after turning to CNN anchor Don Lemon and CNN Español's Juan Carlos Lopez to ask the candidates questions about "Black Lives Matter" and immigration, respectively.