Big ratings, plus the audience stayed for nearly the entire debate
WASHINGTON – Monday night’s first presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton set an all-time television viewing record. Final numbers came in late Tuesday and they are massive.
The debate drew 84 million U.S. television viewers, a record for such an event and numbers rarely seen on TV in the age of digital streaming and social media.
NBC boasted the largest debate audience, drawing 18.2 million viewers, or 22% of the overall viewership for the 99-minute event. ABC scored the second-largest crowd, averaging 13.5 million viewers, while CBS took third with 12.1 million. Fox News Channel claimed the biggest debate crowd among the cable news outlets, drawing 11.4 million viewers, while its rival CNN averaged 9.94 million. MSNBC finished near the back of the pack with an average delivery of 4.91 million viewers.
NBC also won the night among the core news demographic, averaging 8.3 million adults 25 to 54 to CBS’s 4.8 million and ABC’s 4.75 million. CNN’s coverage drew 4.51 million members of the demo, topping the much older-skewing Fox News Channel’s 3.55 million and eclipsing MSNBC’s average delivery of 1.59 million demographically apposite viewers.
As has been the case with every presidential debate since the first televised joust (Nixon-Kennedy, Sept. 26, 1960), Monday night’s proceedings were uninterrupted by commercial messages. Pre- and post-debate ads on the Big Three broadcast networks went for as much as $250,000 per 30-second spot.
Detailed Nielsen data confirms that viewership stayed high the entire time. Contrary to some speculation, there was not a big drop-off after the first 30 minutes of the 98-minute debate.
Monday’s face-off tops the previous record for a presidential debate set when 80.6 million viewers watched President Carter and Ronald Reagan clash on Oct. 28, 1980. It was their only meeting of that year’s presidential campaign, which occurred in an era when U.S. households had only a few channels to choose from.
The viewership figures understated how many people watched the debate, although by how much is uncertain. The total across broadcast and cable networks measured by Nielsen does not include viewers who watched the debate through various video streams available online. Streaming probably cut into the TV audience number, as younger viewers have turned to digital devices to watch programs and live events since the 2012 presidential debates, the highest of which averaged 67.2 million television viewers.
Meanwhile,moderator and NBC anchor Lester Holt largely unobtrusive style had its detractors on social media, especially among Clinton supporters who believed he let Trump interrupt too often. But Holt played well in the spin room at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., where the media were gathered to cover the event.
“I thought he had a great night,” said Mark McKinnon, a former Republican consultant who is now a producer and co-host for Showtime’s political series “The Circus.” “I thought he pressed where he needed to press. It never got out of control, which is what you want from a debate moderator.”
Tammy Haddad, co-host of Bloomberg’s “Masters in Politics” podcast and a veteran TV news producer, agreed.
“I think he did the impossible,” she said. “When was the last time you had a debate where the moderator was able to get out of the way and make sure all of the issues were hit? I think he did it well. I think you learned more in this one evening than the last month of the campaign.”
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Vice presidential debate
Moderator: Elaine Quijano, Anchor, CBSN and Correspondent, CBS News
Location: Longwood University, Farmville, VA
The Vice Presidential debate will be divided into nine time segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Second presidential debate
Moderator: Martha Raddatz, Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and Co-Anchor of “This Week,” ABC
Moderator: Anderson Cooper, Anchor, CNN
Location: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO
Submit questions and vote on questions for this debate, visit PresidentialOpenQuestions.com to participate!
The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which half of the questions will be posed directly by citizen participants and the other half will be posed by the moderator based on topics of broad public interest as reflected in social media and other sources. The candidates will have two minutes to respond and there will be an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate further discussion. The town meeting participants will be uncommitted voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Third presidential debate
Moderator: Chris Wallace, Anchor, Fox News Sunday
Location: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
The format for the third debate will be identical to the first presidential debate.