The three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will go down as the most-watched series of debates in television history.

An audience of 71.46 million people watched Wednesday’s third and final face-off between the Republican and Democratic party nominees, based on figures from 11 channels that aired the debate.

Wednesday’s crowd was about 7.5 percent larger than the second debate’s audience of 66.5 million — which didn’t air on NBC due to the network’s NFL obligations — and still well short of the record-setting 84.4 million for the first contest.

Together, the three debates averaged about 74.1 million viewers, the biggest audience ever in an election year where more than one debate took place. Prior to this year, only one previous debate (the lone contest between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980) drew more than 70 million people.

The Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960 remain the all-time champion in terms of households, the best measure of the percentage of homes that tuned in. Those four debates averaged a 59.3 household rating — even the Super Bowl doesn’t hit that mark these days — but total viewers (which weren’t recorded then) would have been lower since both the population of the United States and the number of homes with TVs was considerably smaller then.

Fox News drew the biggest debate audience Wednesday with 11.26 million viewers. ABC (10.96 million), NBC (10.39 million) and CBS (10.12 million) were tightly bunched from second to fourth. CNN drew 8.68 million viewers, followed by FOX broadcast, 6.6 million; MSNBC, 5.51 million; PBS, 2.7 million; Univision, 2.4 million; Telemundo, 1.58 million; Fox Business, 741,000; and CNBC, 547,000.

Here is the audience for the debates in each of the past six presidential election years.

Year First debate Second debate Third debate VP debate
1996 46.1 million 36.3 million ** 26.6 million
2000 46.6 million 37.5 million 37.7 million 28.5 million
2004 62.4 million 46.7 million 51.1 million 43.5 million
2008 52.4 million 63.2 million 56.5 million 69.9 million
2012 67.2 million 65.6 million 59.2 million 51.4 million
2016 84.4 million 66.5 million 71.5 million 35.6 million

**Only two debates were held in 1996.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

  • https://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/daily-ratings/wednesday-final-ratings-oct-19-2016/ ‘Blindspot’ and ‘Frequency’ adjust down, full debate numbers: Wednesday final ratings – TV By The Numbers by zap2it.com

    […] presidential debate dominated Wednesday’s ratings, but there was some movement from the early numbers among […]

    Like

  • http://bullypulpit.com/blindspot-and-frequency-adjust-down-full-debate-numbers-wednesday-final-ratings/ ‘Blindspot’ and ‘Frequency’ adjust down, full debate numbers: Wednesday final ratings ‹ Bully Pulpit

    […] presidential debate dominated Wednesday’s ratings, but there was some movement from the early numbers among […]

    Like

blog comments powered by Disqus