Last night, upwards of 80 million people tuned in to the debate to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face-to-face. This viewership has set a new record in the sixty year history of televised presidential debates, making it the most watched in history, CNN reports.
While the final numbers have yet to be calculated by Nielsen (which measures viewers who watch on a television at home), the debate averaged a total of 80.9 million viewers across 12 channels that broadcast it live. Given that Nielsen does not tally the amount of people watching the debate at offices, parties, bars, restaurants, the number is all the more impressive.
The 80.9 million total does not include PBS and C-SPAN; PBS ratings will be available later today, Sept. 27.
Many millions also watched the debate on the Internet. YouTube livestreams collectively registered more than 2.5 million simultaneous viewers. Live streams across other sites also garnered millions of viewers.
Taking all of this into account, the actual number of viewers is much higher than 80 million. The numbers show CNN and other news channels’ big increases in viewership over past elections. NBC’s number of viewers registers at about 18 million people, possibly because NBC’s very own Lester Holt (NBC Nightly News) was the debate moderator.
Data from Nielsen affirms that viewership stayed high the entire time, contrary to belief that there was a big drop after the first hour of the 98-minute debate.
The first Obama-Romney debate in 2012 generated 67 million viewers. The number that the Clinton-Trump debate sought to beat was 81 million, set in 1980 by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.