Over 73 million people tuned into Tuesday’s presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden (D), down 13 percent from the 84 million who watched the first showdown between Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Preliminary ratings indicated the debate did not draw as many viewers as the first presidential debate in September 2016, but the final number, which includes 16 networks, drew 73.1 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Fox News had the largest audience share, attracting 17.8 million viewers, followed by ABC (12.6 million), NBC (9.7 million), CNN (8.3 million), MSNBC (7.2 million), CBS (6.4 million), and Fox broadcast network (5.4 million).
According to USA Today, the debate drew more viewers than past presidential debate openers, including “George W. Bush vs. John Kerry in 2004 (62.5 million); Barack Obama vs. John McCain in 2008 (52.4 million); and Obama vs. Mitt Romney in 2012 (67.2 million). ”
The debate came under heavy scrutiny from political and media figures on both sides of the aisle. Many progressives have called for the cancellation of future debates — former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry even declared that future debates would serve as a “danger to public safety and a direct threat to Black life” — while Trump allies criticized moderator Chris Wallace, whom they say intervened on behalf of Joe Biden (D) far too many times.
As a result of the backlash from both sides, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced on Wednesday that it will incorporate “additional structure” to future debates. According to reports, the commission may allow moderators to cut off mics during the next two debates to avoid crosstalk and interruptions.
C-SPAN’s Steve Scully will serve as the moderator for the next town hall-style presidential debate, which will take place October 15 in Miami, Florida.