Cable News Viewers Flock to Dem Debates on CNN

The second round of Democratic Presidential debates drew a smaller audience than the first round, with the move to CNN drawing a larger share of traditional cable news viewers, according to an analysis by Samba TV.

The number of people who described themselves as neither Democrat or Republican was down more than 5%. And like the June debates, Fox News viewers were more likely to watch just one of the two nights compared to MSNBC viewers.

Viewership of the first night of the debate seems to have been affected by competition from The Bachelorette and America’s Got Talent. There was no high-rated programming on the second night of the debates.

Ken Mallon, senior VP, measurement sciences, at Samba TV, said that the overall audience was largely white and higher income for both nights, and that African-American viewership under-indexed on the first night.

Mallon said that African-Americans might have been tuning in to see specific candidates--including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Corey Booker. On the second night, African-American viewership was up 2% from June.

Viewing was up in Detroit, where the debates were held, which is significant because Michigan is a swing state. But other markets in swing states, including St. Louis, Charlotte, Cleveland, Miami, Raleigh and Phoenix were flat to under-indexing, suggesting that the debates are not yet engaging voters in those key states yet.

Debate viewers tuned into CNN early and stayed late, with about 12% of debate viewers tuning in for pre-debate programming and 22% sticking around for analysis afterwards.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.