CNN’s debate becomes its highest rated broadcast, but still falls short of past ones

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A combined 51.27 million total viewers watched the CNN Presidential Debate on television June 27, 2024, making it the most-watched program in the network’s history, but saw a significantly smaller audience than past matchups.

CNN allowed other members of the media to simulcast its feed of the debate. 16 networks tracked by Nielsen opted to do so, and the figure combined all of that data.

The simulcast arrangement was similar to how all networks could use the Commission on Presidential Debates‘ feed of non-primary debates in past years and the portfolio of networks opting to carry the feed was largely identical. 

The June 27 debate viewership ended up being rated much lower than the first 2020 debate between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden that saw 73 million viewers and the 84 million who watched a 2016 debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, for example. 

Like CNN’s figures, these ratings represent a combined figure of all viewers across all TV networks tracked by Nielsen.

CNN said that an estimated 9.53 million viewers watched the debate on its flagship linear feed, putting it ahead of Fox’s 9.276 million and ABC News’ 9.21 million. MSNBC attracted 4.122 million.

On digital, CNN saw more than 30 million live starts of the debate on CNN’s digital platforms and YouTube. The debate was the biggest day for the CNN Max brand, nearly doubling its previous record. 

Overall, the June 27 debate was also the second largest live event to stream on Max, behind on the March Madness Final.

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The debate was moderated by Jake Tapper, anchor and chief Washington correspondent and Dana Bash, anchor and chief political correspondent. The debate aired from 9 to 10:39 p.m. live from CNN’s studios in Atlanta, Georgia.

The CNN Presidential Debate was made available to Washington, D.C. Television News Pool Members, Pool Subscribers and CNN Affiliates to be simulcast.

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