The Democratic presidential debate from Las Vegas was both last week’s most-watched broadcast program and first among cable programs, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.
An average of 12.111 million viewers watched the debate on NBC last Wednesday while the MSNBC telecast averaged 7.671 million.
The combined viewership of 19.782 million was the most for a Democratic presidential debate, breaking the previous record of 18.1 million for the June 27 debate on NBC, MSNBC and the Spanish-language network Telemundo.
Only two other prime-time programs last week averaged more than 10 million viewers — the CBS action drama “NCIS,” which averaged 11.921 million viewers, and Fox’s 13-minute Daytona 500 post-race show which averaged 10.078 million. The completion of the rain-delayed race ended before the 8 p.m. Eastern Time start of prime time.
CBS had four of the top six programs to finish first in the network race for the second consecutive week and seventh time in the 22-week-old 2019-20 season, averaging 6.12 million viewers between Feb. 17 and Sunday.
NBC was second, averaging 4.39 million, followed by ABC, which averaged 4.16 million, Fox News Channel, which averaged 3.008 million, and Fox, which averaged 2.98 million viewers for its 15 hours, 11 minutes of programming, its third consecutive fourth-place finish among the broadcast networks following Super Bowl LIV.
CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox News Channel each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.
“FBI,” which followed “NCIS” on CBS, was fourth for the week, averaging 9.224 million viewers.
CBS also had the most-watched comedy, “Young Sheldon,” fifth for the week averaging 9.117 million, and the most-watched news magazine, “60 Minutes,” sixth for the week, averaging 8.946 million viewers.
Without an original episode of its popular “Chicago” franchise, NBC’s most-watched program outside the debate was “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” eighth for the week, averaging 7.612 million viewers.
(NBC chose to air a rerun of “Chicago Med” preceding the debate. “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD” were pre-empted by the debate.)
“American Idol” was ABC’s most-watched program for the second time in the two weeks it has aired this season, averaging 7.5 million viewers, 7.1% less than the 8.073 million-average a week earlier. The singing competition was ninth for the week, one spot below where its season premiere ranked.
Fox’s highest-rated program outside of the Daytona 500 post-race show was “The Masked Singer,” 11th for the week, averaging 7.134 million viewers.
Fox News Channel had each of the seven most-watched prime-time cable programs outside of the debate and 13 of the top 14, to finish first among cable networks for the fifth consecutive week, averaging 3.008 million viewers.
MSNBC was second, averaging 2.165 million, and HGTV third, averaging 1.175 million.
The week’s most-watched Spanish-language program was Univision’s coverage of the Premio Lo Nuestro Latin music awards show, which averaged 3.03 million viewers, 70th among the week’s prime-time broadcast and cable programs. Viewership was 8.1% higher than last year’s show, which averaged 2.804 million viewers and was 84th for the week.
Univision was the most-watched Spanish-language network for the 12th consecutive week and 14th time in 15 weeks, averaging 1.73 million viewers.
Telemundo averaged 1.03 million viewers to finish second, followed by UniMas, which averaged 600,000, Estrella TV, which averaged 130,000 viewers, and Azteca America, which averaged 70,000.
ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for the 12th consecutive week, 63rd time in 64 weeks and 115th time in 117 weeks, averaging 9.028 million viewers.
“NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 7.788 million viewers. The “CBS Evening News” averaged 5.766 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 NBC’s telecast of the Democratic presidential debate from Las Vegas; CBS’ “NCIS”; Fox’s 13-minute Daytona 500 post-race show; CBS’ “FBI,” “Young Sheldon” and “60 Minutes”; MSNBC’s telecast of the Democratic presidential debate; NBC’s “America’s Got Talent: The Champions”; ABC’s “American Idol”; and CBS’ “Survivor.”
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