Biden Beats Ratings-Obsessed Trump In Viewers During Competing Network Town Halls

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump speak during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Oh... Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump speak during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s town hall on Thursday garnered more viewers than President Trump’s alternate primetime event on NBC, according to Nielsen.

Biden’s town hall averaged 13.9 million viewers on Thursday night, significantly trumping the President’s average of 10.6 million viewers on the competing NBC network.

The ratings figures come after NBC was widely criticized for holding the competing event, offering President Trump a time slot after he refused the Commission on Presidential Debate’s proposed virtual format for a second face off with his Democratic opponent after he announced a COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 2.

Perhaps even more surprising, per CNN, is that the Trump town hall was simulcast by two of NBC’s cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, but even when those channels are included in the total, the ratings for Biden’s town hall still win out. On MSNBC, Trump reached 1.74 million viewers, and on CNBC, about 671,000 viewers, according to Nielsen. Cable channels included, Trump’s audience average expands to 13 million — still roughly 1 million viewers shy of Biden’s average audience total on ABC.

Notably, Nielsen’s early ratings measure viewers tuning in from televisions and do not count live-streaming numbers from phones, tablets, computers and other devices — figures that are expected to be released later in the day. 

While surprising perhaps to both campaigns and many political commentators, Biden’s ratings strength has been intensifying for months as he deepens his lead in national polls — much to the chagrin of the ratings-obsessed Trump.

Before his 2016 presidential bid, Trump had been a staple of NBC, hosting shows like “The Apprentice” and touting high performance for the network. 

That marked fixation on optics and ratings has continued and was palpable from the earliest days of his presidency when he famously exaggerated attendance at his inauguration in 2017.

But when the TV ratings have failed him, Trump has called foul, claiming when Nielsen reported higher turnout for the Democratic National Convention that “Online Streaming Numbers” hadn’t been counted in the released numbers. 

But as the Associated Press previously pointed out, there is no single universal standard for measuring all the various ways the town halls were streamed, both live and on-demand.

Neither event reached anywhere near the ratings achieved during the Sept. 29 presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, which Nielsen has said drew an estimated 73.1 million viewers who tuned in across 16 networks.

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