The debate attracted around 84 million viewers before online viewership had even been taken into account
Whatever the result of this year’s fateful US election, the American people quickly realised the first of the presidential debates would be nothing short of a historical moment.
The final Nielsen numbers have revealed that the first Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton stand-off attracted a record-breaking average of 84 million viewers (via Deadline), making it the most watched televised debate in history.
However, this number could soon rise, since it’s only taking into account live viewership on 13 television networks; including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Azteca, Univision, Telemundo, PBS, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business Network, and MSNBC.
The total doesn’t even include viewership from C-Span, which saw a large amount of Twitter recommendations due to its lack of network talking heads. Add to that what’s bound to be a significant level of online viewership, as well as individuals who watched the debates outside of their homes (in bars and public places), and the number becomes a staggering indicator of how monumental this election really is in the American psyche.
The previous record holder was the 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, which racked up 81 million viewers; in comparison, President Obama’s first debate against Mitt Romney drew 67 million viewers in 2012.