Some 80.9mn Americans watched the first US presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump on television, setting a new viewer record for such events, CNN said yesterday.
The figure includes the approximately 45mn who watched the 90-minute debate on the four main TV networks, as well as millions more who watched cable channels, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other smaller outlets, CNN said.
The figures, which are not final, beat the 80.6mn record set by the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan TV presidential debate in 1980 but are below the 100mn viewers some analysts had predicted ahead of the face-off.
An audience of around 100mn would have ranked the debate in the league of the annual football Super Bowl, which attracts more than 100mn viewers and is the biggest TV event in the United States.
CNN said final numbers were still being tallied by Nielsen, which measures television audience size, and would be available later. CNN said viewership remained high throughout and, according to Nielsen data, there was not a big drop-off after the first hour of the 98-minute debate.
Monday’s figures did not include millions of people who watched the debate in bars, restaurants and online through Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Monday’s debate was the first of three between the presidential candidates before the November 8 election. The other two are on October 9 and 19.
The Hollywood Reporter said preliminary Nielsen data showed that some 45.8mn Americans watched the debate on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.
That was a 23% increase on the initial audience from the same networks for the first 2012 match-up between president Obama and Republican Romney that translated to a total overall audience of 67.2mn viewers.
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