Clinton-Obama Debate Sets MSNBC Ratings Record

Cable Network Draws 7.8M Viewers for Coverage of Democratic Debate

If the race between Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was over prior to Tuesday night’s debate, someone forgot to tell MSNBC viewers.

The cable network’s coverage of the often-testy Democratic debate was the most-watched broadcast in its 11-year history, drawing 7.8 million viewers. MSNBC’s previous best was 3.7 million on the evening of March 19, 2003, which marked the beginning of the Iraq war.

The debate also drew 3.24 million adults 25-54, another network best.

Included in those numbers were several local Ohio stations that simulcast the debate, including host WKYC Cleveland, as well as NBC affiliates WLWT-TV Cincinnati, WCMH-TV Columbus, WNWO-TV Toledo, WDTN-TV Dayton, WLIO-TV Lima, WTOV-TV Steubenville, WFMJ-TV Youngstown and WHIZ-TV Zanesville.

According to numbers provided by MSNBC, the debate trailed only Fox (which had a 90-minute American Idol,followed by comedy Back to You) in total viewers during the time period on either broadcast or cable.

In the 18-49 demo, the debate averaged a 2.0 rating/5 share. That was up 300% from MSNBC’s prior four-week time period average but slightly off from last Thursday’s Democratic debate on CNN (2.1/6).

MSNBC added that the debate drew more than 500,000 streams on