Most of the recent talk about the ABC Democratic Presidential debate centered on the questioning, the fairness, and the motives of the anchors. I don't care about any of that. When the number of TV viewers hits the news, I'm all over it.
The April 16 debate on ABC drew 10.69 million average viewers and 4.38 million adults 25-54. That's the most average viewers of any debate of this political season, and for adults 25-54 the biggest by a wide (33%) margin.
Numbers like that are very large compared to typical broadcast network news ratings and cable news ratings. They're huge compared to the typical adults 25-54 audience for regular programming produced by ABC news. World News Tonight usually has between 2-2.5 million adults 25-54, and has about the same number of adults 18-49.
So for politics, they're big numbers, and for news, they're big numbers. For general programming, that adults 25-54 audience doesn't get you into the top 20 (although the comparison is to 18-49 which is roughly comparable, and we have no S-T-D adults 25-54 data for individual shows).
In fact, an audience of 4.38 million demo adults would put the show at #44 on the season to date 18-49 ranking, just behind ER at 4.456 million. That's a middle of the pack performance for a primetime broadcast show.
So, with as much excitement as the races this year have been generating in TV news/politics land, they're not exactly getting hit ratings, but they're doing better than plenty of primetime shows "on the bubble".