While presidential debates are highly sought-after events for any major television network, especially in a fiery, 2020 presidential election atmosphere, MSNBC’s Wednesday night Democratic debate went down in flames, ratings-wise, compared to all previous debates that have been held this year.
According to Mediaite, Nielsen ratings revealed that the network scored 6.5 million viewers overall for the debate, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. They also managed to garner 1.6 million viewers in the 25-54 demographic, which is the gold standard group of viewers that advertisers look for.
While that sounds like an impressive number in general, compared to the previous debates, it ended up the lowest-watched to date. By comparison, CNN was able to land 8.5 million viewers overall and 2.4 million from the 25-54 demo in the October debate.
The low numbers could be attributed to a number of circumstances, including debate fatigue. But the event also came on the heels of hours of live testimony from the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland gave what many television analysts have called the most damning testimony in the entire investigation, with Sondland being the first to claim that a quid pro quo situation did, in fact, take place on a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
That all-day event could have contributed to the poor showing on MSNBC’s part, according to TVNewser editor A.J. Katz.
“Why the low ratings? Perhaps 11 hours of impeachment coverage wore politics junkies out. Perhaps people are becoming flat out tired of these debates. Could be a combination of both,” Katz said.
“Having 6.5 million viewers tune into your broadcast is never anything to sneeze at, but it’s still far fewer than what previous debates hauled in,” he added.
Sondland’s hours-long live testimony on Wednesday was followed by two more witness testimonies that ran well into the early evening hours, possibly leaving viewers burnt out on politics in general. Unlike previous debates, which are typically dissected ahead of time and anticipated by pundits and reporters on all major news networks, the drawn-out impeachment hearings prevented any chance of that on Wednesday.
As Mediaite reported, the most popular debate so far in this election cycle came on the second night of the first debate held in June, with NBC scoring a staggering 18 million viewers overall and over 5 million in the 25-54 demo.
MSNBC’s debate also drew some criticism from supporters of 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang, as reported by The Inquisitr. His supporters, who proudly identify as members of the “Yang Gang,” pointed out that Wednesday night’s debate marked the fifth time in a row Yang received the least amount of speaking time.
The angry supporters managed to propel the hashtag “MSNBCFearsYang” into the trending column on Twitter out of protest.