Ratings: First Debate Down vs. Trump/ Clinton, But Third-Biggest Since 1976

TV Ratings First Trump Biden Debate

The President of the United States’ first debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden drew fewer looky-loos than Trump’s first 2016 face-off with Hillary Clinton but still delivered a sizable crowd.

Per Nielsen finals, Tuesday night’s first presidential debate of 2020 amassed 34.1 million total viewers across ABC (which accounted for the largest broadcast crowd, with 12.6 mil), NBC (9.7 mil), CBS (6.4 mil) and Fox (5.4 mil).

Update: With cable and other networks folded in, Tuesday’s Trump/Biden debate delivered 73.1 million total viewers — down 13 percent from the 84 million viewers who tuned in for Round 1 of Trump/Clinton back in 2016. (That debate bested the record that was set by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s Oct. 28, 1980 debate, which drew 81 mil.) As such, Trump/Biden Round 1 was the third-most watched debate since 1976.

Elsewhere on Tuesday:

NBC | The Weakest Link debuted to 5.9 million total viewers and a 1.2 demo rating. TVLine readers gave the “reboot” an average grade of “B.”

CBS | The penultimate Love Island (2.5 mil/0.6) hit and matched Season 2 highs.

FOX | Cosmos (1.8 mil/0.4) matched last week’s season opener.

THE CW | Tell Me a Story (303K/0.1) was steady with its freshman broadcast finale.

The Live+Same Day numbers reported in our ratings column do not reflect a show’s overall performance, given the increased use of delayed playback via DVR and streaming platforms, plus out-of-home viewing. These numbers (Nielsen fast nationals, unless denoted as finals) instead aim to simply illustrate trends or superlatives. Warning: Contents may be hot!

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