Sunday night’s NBC face-off between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was the most-watched Democratic primary debate since October, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings.
The debate had a 7.2 household rating, meaning that 7.2% of American homes with TV sets were tuned in.
That’s an improvement over the other two Democratic debates on broadcast networks this election season.
ABC’s Democratic debate on a Saturday night in November averaged a 6.1 household rating.
The CBS debate on the Saturday before Christmas in December had a 6.0.
But NBC’s debate — the fourth of the Democratic cycle — didn’t come close to matching the first one, televised by CNN in October.
That debate, on a Tuesday night, had an 11.2 rating and 15.3 million viewers. It remains the highest-rated Democratic primary match-up in TV history.
Actual viewership numbers for NBC’s debate will be released later Monday or Tuesday. Based on the 7.2 overnight rating, the debate likely averaged somewhere around 10 million viewers.
Clinton and Sanders were joined on stage by Martin O’Malley. Despite several attempts to win more time from the moderators, O’Malley spoke for half as many minutes as his higher-polling rivals.
NBC moderator Lester Holt received generally positive reviews for his performance. He was joined by questioner Andrea Mitchell as well as several YouTube users who submitted questions ahead of time via video.
Some Twitter critics dismissed the YouTube integration as ineffective.
It did help NBC to reach an online audience, however. YouTube and its parent, Google (Tech30), promoted a live-stream of the debate on Sunday night. At one point the stream had more than 350,000 concurrent viewers. ,
NBC also live-streamed the debate on its own web site.
Putting the Democratic ratings into perspective, NBC’s overnight rating was slightly lower than the household rating for Fox Business Network’s Republican primary debate last week. And that was the lowest-rated GOP debate of the cycle, with about 11 million viewers.
This election season, the debates on cable news have generally out-rated debates on broadcast networks, despite the historic advantages of broadcast.