That’s counting three additional TV channels, out-of-home viewing and connected TVs
Tuesday’s cable news numbers are in, and now we know just how “yuge” the Biden-Trump debate ratings declined from 2016’s first Trump-Clinton faceoff.
From 9 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. ET, a 16-channel simulcast reached 73.1 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. In a first for a presidential debate, that tally counts connected TVs and out-of-home viewing.
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It still represents a 13% decline from 2016.
Between 9:03 p.m. ET-10:38 p.m. ET, Fox News Channel averaged 17.8 million viewers. Broadcast network ABC ranked second with 12.6 million viewers, followed by NBC with 9.6 million viewers and CNN with 8.2 million viewers. MSNBC came in fifth among the seven main channels with 7.1 million viewers, while CBS and Fox broadcast trailed with 6.3 million and 5.4 million viewers, respectively.
In the key 25-54 demographic for that same timeframe, FNC also ranked No. 1 with 5.3 million viewers, followed by ABC with 4.8 million viewers and NBC with 4.1 million viewers. CNN came in fourth with 3.5 million viewers in the key demo, Fox broadcast came in fifth with 2.4 million, CBS came in sixth with 2.1 million and MSNBC trailed in seventh with 1.7 million.
Fox News, which hosted the debate, said there were 9.7 million total video streams across Fox News digital properties, Facebook and YouTube.
Find the earlier-available Nielsen ratings for the broadcast TV channels here. Those preliminary numbers had not been adjusted for time differences.
Back in September 2016, Trump-Clinton 1 nabbed a record 84 million overall audience members combined across 13 networks, including: NBC (18.2 million), ABC (13.5 million), CBS (12.1 million), Fox (5.3 million), Univision (2.5 million), Telemundo (1.8 million), Fox News (11.4 million), CNN (9.8 million), MSNBC (4.9 million), PBS (3 million), Fox Business Network (673,000) and CNBC (520,000).
The first Trump-Clinton debate broke the previous Nielsen record for a presidential debate, which was set in 1980 when Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan drew 80.6 million total viewers.
Here is a list of all pre-2016 televised debates ranked by their Nielsen numbers, including that previous high-water mark from 36 years ago. There were far fewer TVs back in 1980 and a smaller U.S. population, but also less competition and fewer means of viewing.
The Tuesday night matchup between the two candidates, filled by frequent interruptions by Trump and bickering, was roundly criticized by several anchors and pundits as one of the most chaotic presidential debates in history.
Here is a list of networks from Tuesday’s simulcast: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Telemundo, Univision, PBS, CNN, CNN en Español, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Newsmax, Newsy, Vice and WGNA.
And from Clinton-Trump 1 in 2016: ABC, CBS, Fox, Univision, NBC, Telemundo, Azteca América, PBS, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
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