Update, 5:25 p.m. ET: The final TV ratings have been tallied, and Donald Trump did indeed lose out to John McCain in the battle for biggest RNC audience. Coverage of the last night of the 2016 RNC drew 32.2 million total viewers across ABC, CBS, NBC, UNI, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC and NBC Universo. While technically these are “Big T.V. ratings!” as Trump promised in a tweet, it’s worth bearing in mind that was the collective audience of 10 networks.
The 2016 Republican National Convention will probably wind up with a silver medal, rather than gold, in the ratings competition against previous years. Early ratings results indicate 30.05 million people watched Donald Trump accept the mantle of the Republican presidential nomination in the 10 p.m. hour across the ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
That’s slightly less than the 30.25 million that tuned in to Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech in 2012; however, that figure includes viewership across ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Current, Mun2, PBS and Univision. The extra networks provided a lift of almost 2 million viewers when all was said and done, so it’s likely Trump will see some sort of lift when the final tally comes down.
Regardless, both 2016 and 2012 pale in comparison to the 2008 RNC, which closed out with 38.93 million viewers across the three aforementioned broadcasters, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Univision and Telemundo, according to Nielsen.
In the 10 p.m. hour, unrounded numbers for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC combined for a preliminary total audience of 17.79 million. The broadcasters accounted for 12.26 million.
CNN had another banner night with 4.32 million total viewers from 8-11, 1.38 million in the essential-to-cable-news 25-54 demographic.
That’s considerably up from 2012’s haul for CNN (1.66 million total and 581,000 in 25-54), and put the network within spitting distance of Fox News. (It should be noted that the network is still erasing years of ratings declines.) MSNBC was up from 2012 as well, nearly doubling its total primetime audience (2.95 million vs. 1.57 million) and 25-54 viewers (927,000 vs. 465,000).
In the 10 p.m. hour, CNN beat out ABC, CBS and NBC in total viewers and viewers 25-54, though that demographic is of less importance to the broadcasters.
It was a long, long final night of the convention. Trump didn’t take the stage at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena until around 10:20 p.m. ET. His acceptance speech—the leaked text of which had already been pored over by the media—lasted around an hour and 16 minutes, the longest nomination acceptance speech in 40 years, according to C-SPAN.
Trump’s lengthy description of a dystopian America means that early ratings will be subject to more than the usual adjustments. However, they indicate that while, in the end, more people may have tuned in to hear the former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice” accept the Republican nomination for president than Mitt Romney do the same in 2012, The Donald simply can’t claim a ratings win compared to 2008’s final night.