- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The first presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden yielded a relatively modest audience Tuesday, according to early ratings numbers from Nielsen Media Research.

Preliminary ratings revealed that the average audience for the debate roughly numbered 64.7 million viewers across eight networks during the event. Fox News drew 17.8 million viewers of the total, topping those who were drawn to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC.

How does that compare to another infamous debate? When Mr. Trump faced off with then-candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, the debate garnered 84.4 million viewers across 13 networks, resulting in the biggest audience in the six-decade history of televised debates.

The numbers can be complicated. This time around, 28 million viewers tuned into ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — a decline of 36% from the 2016 debate.

“Four years ago, the four networks tallied 45.3 million viewers in the preliminary ratings, rising to 49.3 million after time zone adjustments for the live broadcast,” said the Hollywood Reporter.

The initial ratings should rise “by a decent amount” in final ratings, due Wednesday night. But ultimately, observers don’t thinking the debate can top the Trump/Clinton match-up.

“Cable news channels and other outlets will also add millions to the total, but it’s exceedingly unlikely that this debate will come close to the first face-off four years ago,” the industry publication said.

“In 2012, 67.2 million watched the opening debate; the 2008 figure was 52.4 million. Tuesday’s telecast is likely to end up in between the 2008 and 2012 numbers,” The Hollywood Reporter noted.

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