Ratings: First Debate Down vs. Trump/ Clinton 2016, Weakest Link Strong

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, at least per the preliminary TV ratings.

Tuesday night’s first presidential debate of 2020 amassed about 29 million total viewers across ABC (which accounted for the largest broadcast crowd, with 11 mil), NBC (8 mil), CBS (5.3 mil) and Fox (4.5 mil), according to Nielsen fast nationals.

Back in 2016, the four broadcast networks combined for 42.7 million total viewers when Trump debated Clinton for a first time. That face-off went on to report 84 million total viewers across broadcast and cable networks, besting the record that was set by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan’s Oct. 28, 1980 debate (which drew 81 mil).

Nielsen finals for Tuesday night’s debate will be reported/added on Wednesday evening.

Elsewhere on Tuesday:

NBC | The Weakest Link debuted to 6.1 million total viewers and a 1.3 demo rating, giving the Peacock network a 17-week high in the time slot. TVLine readers gave the “reboot” an average grade of “B.”

CBS | The penultimate Love Island (2.8 mil/0.6) hit and matched Season 2 highs.

FOX | Cosmos (2 mil/0.5) ticked up from last week’s season opener.

THE CW | Tell Me a Story (318K/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!

Want scoop on any of the above shows? Email [email protected] and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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