Updated with viewer numbers below.
No one was predicting that ratings for the first Democratic presidential primary debate would approach the massive audiences for the first two Republican face-offs, and they didn’t.
CNN’s debate did, however, draw a larger-than-expected audience that could set a record for the party.
Tuesday’s forum drew 15.3 million viewers, easily beating the previous high for a Democratic debate. In January 2008, a debate between then-Sen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on ABC scored 10.7 million viewers. (Only “NCIS” drew more total viewers in primetime Tuesday.)
In the adults 25-54 demographic — the cable news sweet spot — CNN pulled in 4.8 million people, also a high for a Democratic debate.
Though impressive, the ratings for Tuesday’s face-off still fall well short of the huge numbers for the first two Republican primary debates. The first debate on Fox News in August delivered 25 million viewers, and the second on CNN averaged 23 million, in both cases thanks in large part to curiosity about front-runner Donald Trump.
CNN also says that Internet streams of the debate peaked at 980,000, slightly ahead of the 921,000 for its Republican debate on Sept. 16.