Trump-Biden Debate Ratings Plummet From 2020, Still Dwarf Everything Except NFL


Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock in a cave on Mars, then by now you’ve heard about last night’s historic debate between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump.

The event was unprecedented in a number of ways:

For starters, it was the earliest presidential debate ever, and the combined age of the candidates far exceeded that of any previous pairing.

But for all of the anticipation and all of the hulabaloo on social media as the debate unfolded over two messy hours, the audience was but a fraction of the number who tuned in the first time that Trump and Biden went head-to-head.

According to CNN (via Deadline) 47.8 million tuned in to watch the debate.

Related: Trump, Biden, and the Year of Willful Ignorance: Is the US Media Afraid of the 2024 Election?

Obviously, that’s a substantial figure that dwarfs every broadcast in the past year, with the exception of major live events, such as playoff NFL football.

(The Super Bowl remains the uncontested perennial ratings champ, with February’s contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers pulling in a whopping 123.7 million viewers.)

But it’s a major drop-off from the first 2020 presidential debate, which was watched by 73.1 million Americans.

And that, in turn, was a sharp decline from the first Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton debate, which pulled in 84 million viewers.

Nielsen has yet to release its final numbers, which will create a more complete picture of how many people watched the debate across all platforms.

But regardless of the final tally, it seems clear that there was less interest in this debate than in the first Trump-Biden match in 2020.

There are many reasons why this might be the case, chief among them the fact that these are two historically unpopular candidates, and most voters seem to have already made up their minds.

On top of that, as every network exec knows, reruns don’t pull in the same ratings as new content, and many voters are likely experiencing a sense of weary deja vu when they think about this matchup.

Related: Super Bowls, Series Finales, and Stranger Things: Is Event TV a Thing of the Past? If So, What Does That Mean For Our Culture?

But hey, it wasn’t all bad news for CNN.

The network reported today that last night’s debate was the most streamed event in its history.

So at least someone came away from last night’s debacle with something to smile about!

What do you think, TV fanatics?

Did you watch the first presidential debate of the 2024 election? Why or why not?

Hit the comments section below to share your thoughts!

Tyler Johnson is an Associate Editor for TV Fanatic and the other Mediavine O&O sites. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, and, of course, watching TV. You can Follow him on X and email him here at TV Fanatic.

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