TV rankings Tuesday, September 29, 2020 – The Hollywood Reporter


The first presidential debate of 2020 has been widely criticized by most observers – and has drawn a smaller TV audience than the record-breaking first debate four years ago.

The 16 media outlets that broadcast the debate live attracted 73.13 million viewers – the second-largest audience of all the debates in the past 24 years, according to Nielsen figures, but still well behind the 84 million who have watched the first showdown in the 2016 general election. Streaming figures are not included; Previous widely watched live events, such as the Presidential Debates and Super Bowls, have less than 10% of their average streaming audience.

Of the seven biggest media outlets for the debate – the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC broadcast networks and the cable channels CNN, Fox News and NBC – the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden drew 67.4 million viewers. This is a drop of 8 million viewers (around 11%) for the coverage by these same channels of the first debate of 2016.

Spanish-language broadcasters Telemundo and Univision added 2.68 million viewers to the tally, and Fox Business attracted 758,000 more people. PBS, CNNe, Newsmax, Newsy, Vice, and WGN America drew the remaining 2.3 million viewers.

The first debate of 2016 drew its 84.4 million viewers on 13 networks and had the largest audience in the 60-year history of televised debates. In 2012, 67.2 million watched the opening debate.

Fox News on Tuesday attracted the largest audience of any individual network: 17.81 million viewers, well above its performance in one of the 2016 debates. ABC was second at 12.62 million, followed by NBC, 9.67 million; CNN, 8.29 million; MSNBC, 7.19 million; CBS, 6.38 million; and the Fox broadcast network, 5.44 million.

The audience share of broadcasting networks has decreased considerably compared to 2016: the 34.1 million viewers on the big four are down compared to the 49.33 million in the first debate in 2016, a decrease of 31% . The three main cable news outlets, on the other hand, increased their audiences by 28% to 33.29 million; Fox News (+57 percent) and MSNBC (+47 percent) each recorded big gains from the comparable debate of 2016 – and each set records for a televised general election debate – while CNN fell by 15.5%.

Bookmark THR.com/Ratings for more information and figures.

Sep 30, 1:40 p.m. Updated with cable ratings for the Presidential Debate.

September 30, 3:23 p.m. Updated with final Nielsen figures.


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