TV Ratings: Third Democratic Debate Draws 14M Viewers

ABC and Univision's coverage comes in below the first debates in June but still delivers a big audience.
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ABC and Univision scored strong ratings Thursday with their coverage of the third Democratic presidential primary debate.

The debate, featuring 10 candidates and current frontrunners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren sharing the stage for the first time, averaged a combined 14.04 million viewers on the two broadcast networks. That's off some from the three-network total (NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo) for the first round of debates in June but up considerably over CNN's sole coverage of the second debates in July.

ABC accounted for 12.93 million viewers, with Univision averaging 1.11 million. The two networks combined for a 3.3 rating in the key news demographic of adults 25-54.

Thursday's audience also tops all but one Democratic primary debate from the 2016 cycle; the first forum in October 2015 drew 15.8 million people to CNN.

The two nights of the first debate in June averaged 16.78 million viewers on the three NBCUniversal networks, with the June 27 broadcast setting a record for a Democratic primary debate with 18.1 million viewers. The second two-night debate in late July, airing only on CNN, averaged 9.71 million viewers.

The record audience for a primary debate for either major party is 24 million on Fox News, for the first Republican debate of the 2016 cycle.

In preliminary numbers, ABC's debate coverage drew a 10.0 household rating in Nielsen's 56 metered markets. That's 23 percent higher than the 8.1 NBC got for part two of the first debate on June 27, but about 25 percent lower than combined metered-market average for NBC and MSNBC. 

Elsewhere Thursday, the top broadcast show other than the debate was CBS' Big Brother, with a 1.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 4.58 million viewers — its biggest Thursday audience of the season. Fox got a 0.5 and a little under 2 million viewers from a Major League Baseball telecast. The Outpost scored a 0.2 in the demo and Two Sentence Horror stories a 0.1 on The CW.

ABC topped the night in adults 18-49 with a 1.9 rating, pending updates for live debate coverage. CBS averaged 0.7 and Fox 0.5, pending updates. Telemundo scored a 0.4. NBC, which aired repeats, and Univision both came in at 0.3, and The CW drew a 0.1. 

This post will be updated as more complete debate ratings become available.

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Sept. 13, 12:05 p.m. Updated with final debate ratings.