ABC Democratic Debate Wins Ratings Crown

ABC’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia Wednesday night was the most-watched of the 2008 presidential cycle, officials said Thursday.

The debate averaged 10.7 million viewers, beating ABC’s own prior debate record and one held by CNN.  

The previous high for this election cycle was ABC’s Jan. 5 Democratic presidential debate, which averaged 9.4 million viewers. Charles Gibson moderated the forum in Manchester, N.H, just days before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

CNN’s Jan. 31 telecast of the Democratic California primary debate drew 8.3 million viewers, to rank as the highest-rated primary debate in cable’s history.

Wednesday’s debate was moderated by ABC News anchors Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and aired from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on ABC.

For the Wednesday 8 to 10 p.m. time period, this marks ABC’s best total-viewing audience since last Nov. 28; its largest adult 18-to-49 rating since Feb. 27; and its best adult 25-to-54 rating since Jan. 9.

The first hour of Wednesday’s debate ranked first in its time period among total viewers, adults 18-to-49 and adults 25-to-54. Up against Fox’s American Idol and an original episode of CBS’s Criminal Minds at 9 p.m., the debate retained 96% of it total-viewing audience; 100% of its adults 25-to-54 audience; and grew 4% among adults 18-to-49 from the first hour to the second hour.