Viewership and Advertiser Insights for 2020’s First Democratic Debate

For the first Democratic debate of 2020 — and the last before the Iowa caucuses next month — six candidates took the stage in Des Moines, Iowa: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. They took questions from CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip, plus Brianne Pfannenstiel from The Des Moines Register.

According to Inscape, the TV data company with glass-level insights from a panel of more than 12 million smart TVs, viewership increased over the course of the first hour, peaking around 9:45-9:51 p.m. ET. This was when the moderators directly asked Bernie Sanders about the recent allegation that, in 2018, he privately told Elizabeth Warren he didn’t think a woman could defeat Trump — something he’s denied, but that she’s said did happen. After his response, Warren went on to proclaim “the only people [on this stage] who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. Amy and me.” The candidates, including Klobuchar, then went on to further discuss whether a woman can win the election and what it will take to beat Trump.

Inscape also provided a look at where people were tuning in from. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest hotspot was the Des Moines-Ames, Iowa DMA. (On the heatmap below, the darker the color, the more households were tuning in.)

We also took a look at advertising insights from, the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company. There were over 99.3 million TV ad impressions over the course of the debate, and aside from CNN, the most-seen brands were NumbersUSA, Freedom from Religion Foundation, STX Entertainment and Coricidin HBP.

Given the limited commercial time, there were only 25 ad airings during the debate, and only four spots aired more than once: NumbersUSA’s “E-Verify Works” (three airings), Freedom from Religion Foundation’s “Church and State” (two airings), CNN’s “Race for the White House” (two airings) and Universal Pictures’ trailer for 1917 (two airings). Although political organizations NumbersUSA and Freedom from Religion Foundation had the two most-seen ads (8.5 million impressions and 8 million impressions, respectively), when it came to the most-seen industries, movie studios came out on top (17.5 million impressions).