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A box of popcorn sits next to reporters as they watch Democratic presidential candidate. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

More than 15 million tuned in on live television to the first Democratic debate on Wednesday, according to NBC. Many more watched via streaming or followed along on social media. 

Why it matters: The debate had a strong performance compared to what network executives had predicted, but it still came shy of the viewership for both the Republican and Democratic opening primary debates in 2015.

By the numbers: Wednesday night’s debate, the first of two this week, drew 15.3 million live viewers across NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. The first Republican primary debate in August 2015, which featured Donald Trump on the political debate stage for the first time, received over 24 million live viewers. The first Democratic debate in October 2015 garnered over 15.5 million. 

Between the lines: Millions of people also watched the debate via streaming, although those numbers are hard to compare to live TV views. NBC says that it estimates 9 million people streamed the debates in its digital channels. 

The big picture: Social media also plays a big role in amplifying key moments during political debates.

  • Elizabeth Warren got the most attention on social media during the debate, according to social analytics company Sprout Social. 
  • A few heated moments between former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro seemed to pick up steam on social media as well.
  • In the end, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker got the most speaking time during the debate, followed by O’Rourke, Warren and Klobuchar, per NPR.

Go deeper: Highlights from the first Democratic presidential primary debate

Go deeper

Behind GameStop's latest stock surge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Back in focus: The meme stock trade.

By the numbers: GameStop finished up 19%, after a wild day that saw shares spike as much as 80%.

AT&T spins off U.S. video business via deal with TPG

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

AT&T is spinning off three of its video services, including its satellite TV brand DirecTV, to create a new standalone video company called New DIRECTV.

Details: The company will be jointly owned by AT&T and private-equity giant TPG. AT&T will retain a 70% stake and TPG will own 30% of the firm.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Ex-USA Gymnastics coach dies by suicide after being charged with human trafficking

John Geddert. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

The body of John Geddert was found on Thursday, just hours after the former USA Gymnastics coach was charged with 24 counts of criminal misconduct, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

What they're saying: “My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life. This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved," Nessel said in a statement.