NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES – The first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drew 84 million U.S. television viewers Monday night, a record for such an event and a number rarely seen in the age of digital streaming and social media.
The audience beat the 1980 record of 80.6 million set by the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan debate but fell short of the 100 million viewers some analysts had predicted.
The estimated ratings figure from Nielsen included people who watched the raucous encounter across 13 cable and broadcast networks and the public station PBS.
The figures did not include millions of people who watched the debate online, including in groups in bars and restaurants.
YouTube reported nearly 2 million live concurrent streams of the debate.
The National Football League’s annual Super Bowl attracts more than 100 million viewers, making it the biggest U.S. TV event.
Monday’s debate was the first of three scheduled between Clinton and Trump before the Nov. 8 election. The others are set for Oct. 9 and 19.
Fox News Channel grabbed the biggest cable audience with an average of 11.4 million viewers, early Nielsen data showed. NBC, whose “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt moderated the contentious exchanges about race, the economy and national security, was first overall with an estimated audience of 18.2 million.
TV networks had promoted the debates for days beforehand and reported strong demand compared with four years ago for commercial time during pre- and post-debate programming. Ad rates were far higher than for typical news programming.
CNN charged more than $55,000 for 30-second ad spots as part of packages ranging from $800,000 to $1 million that included future debates and election night, a source said. CBS charged between $200,000 to $225,000, according to another source.
Both CNN and CBS have limited availability left for the next debate, the sources said.
“Clearly the debate did really well last night,” said Michael Law, managing director of video investments at Dentsu Aegis Network.
Law said he did not expect ad rates for the next debate would rise significantly based on Monday night’s audience. The Oct. 9 face-off airs against an NFL match-up of two popular teams, the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants.
“The NFL will likely do well on that night, but will probably see some fall-off during the 90 minutes of debate,” Law said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.