Ratings: Presidential Debate Up 'Bigly' From 2012, Sets All-Time Record

Presidential Debate Ratings Audience

Viewership for the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was, in a word, tremendous.

Final update: According to Nielsen (by way of CNN), the face-off amassed 84 million total viewers across broadcast and cable networks, besting the record set by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s Oct. 28, 1980 debate, which drew 81 mil. NBC led the pack with 18 million viewers. Among cable networks, Fox News was on top with 11.4 mil.

Monday night’s haul marks a 25 percent increase over the first 2012 debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, which drew 67.2 million viewers. Meanwhile, this year’s Super Bowl amassed 111.9 million viewers.

In the TVLine polls below, readers gave Clinton the edge in “winning” the first debate, while Lester Holt averaged a “D+” grade as moderator, with more than a few people feeling his questions were biased against Trump. Perhaps more importantly: How did everyone do with their TVLine bingo cards?

Elsewhere on the night, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (14.1 mil/3.5) ticked down, while Kevin Can Wait (10.9 mil/2.7) gained a tenth in the demo… NBC’s The Voice (12.1 mil/3.3) was steady… ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (10.7 mil/1.8) rose a tenth… and Fox’s Gotham (3.7 mil/1.2) dipped.

Meaningful broadcast viewership numbers for the debate will be reported Tuesday afternoon; cable data will be folded in later.

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