10.2 million viewers watched fourth Democratic primary debate on NBC

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, left, and Bernie Sanders participate in the NBC News -YouTube debate on Jan. 17, 2016 at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP/Getty Images)

The fourth Democratic primary debate broadcast Sunday on NBC was watched by 10.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.

The figure ranks second among the four Democratic debates held so far and is up substantially from the 8.03 million who watched ABC’s telecast of the Dec. 19 meeting of the three contenders for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The debate, moderated by “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, was also seen by an additional 1.2 million viewers across Internet streaming platforms including and the news division’s YouTube channel.

The ratings likely got a boost from the Sunday night time slot. The previous two Democratic debates aired on Saturday nights, when television viewership is at its lowest level of the week. (CBS News coverage of the second debate drew 8.55 million viewers on Nov. 14).


The Democratic National Committee has been criticized for its scheduling of those dates, saying they favored Clinton by minimizing TV exposure to Sanders.

The most watched Democratic primary debate of the 2016 election cycle was on Oct. 13, a Tuesday, when 15.3 million viewers watched the candidates’ first showdown on CNN.

But the audience for NBC’s telecast was higher than all but one of the Democratic primary debates in the 2008 campaign when Clinton unsuccessfully competed against Barack Obama for the nomination.

The highest rated program on Sunday night was CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which featured correspondent Charlie Rose speaking to actor Sean Penn about his secret meeting with drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The broadcast was watched by 20.27 million, the largest “60 Minutes” audience since Nov. 16, 2008, when 25.1 million watched an interview with then President-elect  Obama and his wife Michelle.


NBC’s debate and “60 Minutes” were only head to head in the Western and Mountain time zones.