It’s official. Last night’s showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the highest rated presidential debate in history.
The debate averaged a total of 84 million viewers across 13 of the TV channels that carried it live according to Nielsen.
And that’s home audience only. Those who watched at bars, restaurants or at their offices are not counted, along with the millions who watched online. At one point last night, YouTube registered more than 2.5 million simultaneous viewers.
Perhaps good news for the Clinton campaign, the Nielsen data confirms that viewership stayed high the entire debate. Contrary to earlier speculation, there was not a big drop-off after the first thirty minutes.
NBC had the biggest audience overall, with 18 million people watching. ABC drew 13.5 million viewers, CBS drew 12.1 million, Fox News drew 11.4 million, CNN drew 9.9 million, the Fox broadcast network drew 5.5 million, and MSNBC drew 4.9 million.
All of that means the total audience for the debate was significantly higher than 80 million. The previous debate champion was the 1980 showdown between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan which hit 81 million viewers.
The first Obama-Romney debate in 2012 averaged 67 million viewers.