Democratic debate with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders draws 8 million viewers on CNN and PBS

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Hillary Clinton take the stage before a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday in Milwaukee.

(Tom Lynn / Associated Press)

The Democratic primary debate simulcast on PBS and CNN averaged 8.03 million viewers, on par with the audiences for recent showdowns between the party’s 2016 White House contenders.

PBS produced the debate, which was anchored by “PBS Newshour” anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. CNN paid a license fee to simulcast the match-up between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee and ran commercials on its air during the breaks.

CNN, which promoted the debate throughout the day, drew 4.1 million viewers from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern. The event averaged 3.9 million on PBS stations.

The total was in line with the viewing level for the Democratic primary debates that aired on CBS (8.55 million on Nov. 14) and ABC (8.03 million on Dec. 15).


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The CNN/PBS figure was well above the audience for the meeting between the candidates on MSNBC held on Feb. 4 (4.48 million), which is a bit of an outlier as it was a last-minute addition to the party’s debate schedule.

The top rated Democratic debate so far remains the first meeting of the candidates on CNN, which was watched by an average of 15.4 million viewers on Oct. 13.

The Democratic primary debates have not scored as high as the Republican events that have become TV attractions in large part due to front-runner Donald Trump’s presence in a race with a larger and more unsettled field of candidates. On Feb 6, the Republican primary debate on ABC scored 13.18 million viewers.


The Republican contenders meet again in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday at 6 p.m. Pacific. The debate on CBS will be moderated by the network’s political director John Dickerson.


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