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Early Ratings Show 80.9 Million TV Viewers for Presidential Debate

UPDATED: CNN is reporting the debate drew 80.9 million viewers across 12 linear networks.

Fox News lead the cable pack with 11.4 million. CNN had 9.8 million while MSNBC grabbed 4.9 million. Nielsen’s formal estimate of the total debate tally is expected to be released at about 5 p.m. ET. The 90-minute debate also was carried live by numerous streaming platforms. CNN Digital saw 2.4 million live streams. The CBSN streaming service saw a record 3 million streams.

The early Nielsen numbers indicate a big turnout for Monday’s first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

NBC appears to have drawn the biggest audience among the broadcast networks with a 11.o household rating and 15 share from 9-10:39 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen’s preliminary fast national primetime ratings. Those numbers are subject to significant revision later today because the debate aired live across the country and outside of primetime in West Coast markets. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt was moderator of the debate.

ABC brought in a 9.0/13 with its debate coverage. CBS yielded a 7.5/10 while Fox was far behind its Big Three rivals with a 3.7/5.

Viewership of the debate towered over every other program in primetime other than CBS’ 8 p.m. telecast of “The Big Bang Theory” (9.2/14).

The debate aired commercial-free as a roadblock across the broadcast nets as well as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, PBS and Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo, among other outlets. The intense interest in this year’s presidential contest — and the near dead-heat between Clinton and Trump in national polls — had some pundits projecting viewership as high as 100 million for the first of the three debate meetings between Democratic candidate Clinton and Republican candidate Trump.

NBC also led the way among the Big Three with post-debate analysis. The Peacock’s 10:39-11 p.m. ET wrap-up averaged 9.0/13 while ABC had 6.7/10 and CBS brought in 6.3/9.

Final time-zone adjusted national ratings for the debate will be released later today.

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