The second of last week’s two Democratic presidential debates on CNN drew the largest audience for a prime-time television program since the June 30 debate, according to figures released Tuesday.
The July 31 debate from Detroit averaged 10.772 million viewers, the second-most for a Democratic debate on CNN, behind the first debate in the 2016 campaign which averaged 15.79 million viewers.
The week’s first debate on July 30 averaged 8.687 million viewers, third among prime-time programs between July 29 and Sunday behind the second debate and last Wednesday’s 20-minute post-debate program, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.
The June 30 debate averaged a combined 18.1 million viewers on NBC, cable’s MSNBC and the Spanish-language network Telemundo, the most for a Democratic presidential debate. Programming on broadcast networks customarily draws more viewers than similar programming on cable networks.
Debate programming accounted for each of the week’s five most-watched programs and enabled CNN to end Fox News Channel’s nine-week streak as the most-watched cable network.
CNN averaged 3.171 million viewers for its prime-time programming, more than four times its average audience of 781,000 the previous week when it was 13th among cable networks in prime time.
CNN had the third-largest viewership among all networks, trailing only NBC, which averaged 3.67 million, and ABC, which averaged 3.59 million.
Fox News Channel was second for the week among cable networks, averaging 2.507 million viewers, 8.2% less than its 2.73 million average the week before, which was boosted by discussions on political talk shows about former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony to two House committees.
MSNBC was third after nine consecutive second-place finishes, averaging 1.259 million viewers, 18.4% less than its 1.543 million average a week earlier.
NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” was the week’s most-watched entertainment program and sixth overall, averaging 7.975 million viewers against the first debate, 21.3% less than its 10.128 million average the previous week.
“America’s Got Talent” has been the most-watched entertainment program each week an original episode has aired at least since the summer of 2017.
The season finale of the ABC dating series “The Bachelorette,” averaged a season-high 7.523 million viewers opposite the first debate and “America’s Got Talent” to finish second among entertainment programs and seventh overall.
Viewership for NBC’s coverage of the first NFL preseason game of 2019 was down 21.1% from the 2018 preseason opener, but still 13th overall, including trailing eight elements of CNN’s debate coverage.
The Denver Broncos 14-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game averaged 5.346 million viewers to be Thursday’s most-watched prime-time program.
The Baltimore Ravens 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears in the 2018 Hall of Fame Game averaged 6.774 million viewers, third for its week.
Viewership for most forms of programming has declined in recent years in part because of increased viewership of streaming programs.
NBC was the outright winner in the network race for the sixth consecutive week after tying CBS for first the week of June 17-23, averaging 3.67 million viewers. ABC was second for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 3.59 million viewers.
CBS averaged 2.68 million viewers to finish third for the third consecutive week following a fourth-place finish. Its most-watched program was an episode of “60 Minutes” filled with repeat segments, which averaged 6.492 million viewers, 10th for the week.
Millions of potential CBS viewers were not able to watch the network because its owned-and-operated stations in more than a dozen markets, including Los Angeles, were removed from DirecTV and other AT&T-owned television packages July 20 when the two sides were unable to reach an agreement to allow their continued carriage.
Fox finished fourth for the 27th time in 29 weeks, averaging 1.69 million viewers for its 16 hours of programming. Its most-watched program was the Thursday edition of “MasterChef,” which was 30th among the week’s broadcast and cable programs, averaging 3.339 million viewers.
The only times Fox has finished above fourth in the past 29 weeks were in the weeks it aired golf’s U.S. Open and Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.
CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming for ratings purposes.
The most-watched Spanish-language program was the July 29 episode of the Telmundo telenovela “La Reina del Sur,” which averaged 2.233 million viewers to finish 66th overall. It was ninth among broadcast programs in viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, averaging 1.142 million viewers among the group coveted by advertisers.
Telemundo edged Univision, 1.06 million-1.05 million to be the most-watched Spanish-language network for the fourth week in a row. UniMas was third, averaging 430,000, followed by Estrella TV, which averaged 190,000 viewers, and Azteca America, which averaged 50,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 36th consecutive week and 87th time in the past 88 weeks, averaging 8.066 million viewers.
The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 6.843 million viewers. The “CBS Evening News” averaged 4.897 million viewers. It has finished third each week since the week of Sept. 25-29, 2006.
The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were CNN’s coverage of the July 31 presidential debate and its 20-minute debate close show, the July 30 debate, the 27-minute pre-debate show on July 31, and the July 30 18-minute debate close show; NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”; the July 30 and July 29 episodes of ABC’s “The Bachelorette”; CNN’s 13-minute analysis program following the July 31 debate; and CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
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