Last night's Democratic primary debate on CNN drew about 15.3 million viewers, which is a record for Democratic debates on the network. It was, however, about eight million fewer people than who tuned in for the Republican debate on CNN last month.
CNN's Republican debate set all-time records for the channel. While the network predicted that the Democratic debate wouldn't nearly hit the numbers the Republicans received, the debate still exceeded expectations.
Heading into Tuesday night, there was unanimous agreement that the total audience would be lower than the 25 million who tuned in for Fox's Republican debate on August 6. That debate -- fueled by Donald Trump -- shattered all previous primary debate records.
The Republican rematch on CNN September 16 averaged more than 23 million viewers, essentially confirming that the GOP debates are the highest-rated new "show" of the fall TV season.
CNN executives expected the ratings would be far lower on Tuesday night. They cautioned ahead of time that Republican and Democratic debates were "apples and oranges."
So the 15.3 million total far exceeded expectations, even though it was much lower than the GOP face-offs.