September 30th, 2020

7.9 Million Watch the First Presidential Commission Debate on CNN

CNN Was #1 in Cable News During Post Debate Coverage in the Demo Adults 25-54

Record 1.8M Viewers Streaming the Debate at Peak; All-Time High 3.6M Unique Visitors for ‘Facts First’ Content


7.892 million total viewers watched last night’s first Presidential Commission Debate on CNN according to Nielsen Fast National data (9-10:45pm).  In the key demo adults 25-54,  3.344 million tuned in and among younger viewers (18-34), 1.092 watched.  CNN easily surpassed MSNBC, CBS and Fox (broadcast) in all the demos.  Last night’s debate was moderated by FNC’s anchor Chris Wallace.

During the post-debate coverage block (10:45pm-12:00am) anchored by Dana Bash, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Abby Phillip and Jake Tapper, CNN was #1 in cable news among adults 25-54 with 2.571 million, FNC followed with 2.208 million and MSNBC was third with 1.210 million.  Among younger viewers 18-34, CNN was also top rated with 731k, FNC was second with 613k, and MSNBC lagged with 214k.  In total viewers, CNN surpassed MSNBC, posting an impressive 6.807 million vs. MSNBC’s 4.916 million. FNC drew 7.758 million.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon anchored the network’s late-night coverage (1:00-3:00am), which drew 1.418 million total viewers, 472k among adults 25-54 and 69k younger viewers. The program was ranked #1 across cable news in the 25-54 demo (472k), FNC followed with 417kand MSNBC had 270k.


CNN’s live stream of the first debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential election saw a record 1.8 million concurrent viewers streaming at the 10:20p.m peak, making it the biggest debate audience in CNN history for peak concurrent viewers. CNN saw a total of 1.9 million unique live video viewers on, CNNgo and mobile apps and 6.5 million live starts on CNN’s owned platforms, and YouTube (,, CNNgo on OTT apps & CNN mobile apps for iOS and Android; CNN’s debate coverage was not live streamed on Facebook or Twitter). That’s an increase of 34% for live video viewers and 18% for live starts over the first presidential debate of 2016.

CNN saw 625k users live stream the average minute of the debate (equivalent to the way TV ratings are calculated), which is the second highest digital average audience on record behind Election Day 2016. TV plus digital live streaming produced a combined average audience of 8.517 million total viewers. Digital viewing added a 7.9% lift to CNN TV P2+ average audience for debate day.

On debate day, CNN Digital saw 36 million unique multiplatform visitors and 6.6 million unique total video viewers across all platforms.

Additionally, an all-time record high 3.6 million unique visitors consumed CNN Digital’s ‘Facts First’ content on debate day. Top search terms within the database included key figures like Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, and issues like Covid-19, the economy, race and taxes.