Final Ratings for Third Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton Debate: 71.6 Million

UPDATED: We finally have a complete picture of how many people in total watched the third and final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The total across 13 networks, including PBS, Spanish-language channels Univision and Telemundo and Azteca, stands at 71.6 million viewers.

That total puts Wednesday night’s finale at the third-largest audience for a presidential debate, behind the first Clinton-Trump debate (84 million) and the final Carter-Reagan bout in 1980 (80.6), but ahead of the second Bush-Clinton-Perot melee in 1992, and the first Ford-Carter showdown in 1976. However, because of differences in the number of households and number of people aged 2 and up, it might not be the second highest-rated. Wednesday’s average audience was 23.7% of Nielsen’s estimated population of persons 2 and older in TV households (301.7 million). Comparisons to the second debate of 2016 are difficult, because NBC was airing a “Sunday Night Football” game instead of the debate, but the town hall-style meeting on Oct. 9 ultimately brought in 66.5 million viewers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fox News drew the largest audience of the night, with 11.3 million total viewers. The debate was moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, and debate audiences tend to cluster some around the network of origin for the moderator.

In more final broadcast ratings than those released this morning, ABC brought in 11 million total viewers, NBC drew 10.4 million, CBS brought in 10.12, and Fox brought in 6.6 million.

CNN drew 8.7 million total viewers, beating MSNBC’s 5.5 million total. Fox Business Network added 714,000 viewers to the tally, and CNBC contributed 547,000. PBS added another 2.7 million viewers onto an already impressive total.

These figures also don’t include streaming viewership. While an undoubtedly large number of people watched via the Internet, online outlets typically only talk about viewership in number of streams started, a measurement not analogous to TV ratings, which represent the average viewers per minute of a telecast.

Most of the outlets live streaming the debate offered their streams on a global basis, too, meaning more people had access to those outlets’ offering than that televised by American networks.

In Nielsen’s earlier, non-time zone-adjusted ratings, the third Clinton-Trump debate saw a viewership gain from the candidates’ second meeting, but the turnout didn’t top the blockbuster number delivered by the first debate last month.

According to preliminary Nielsen estimates, Wednesday’s debate delivered a 39.7 overnight household rating across seven networks, up from the 37.2 rating for the Oct. 9 debate, which went up against NFL competition on NBC, which siphoned off a chunk of the viewing populace. The Sept. 26 face-off that kicked off the three Clinton-Trump debates grabbed a 46.2 overnight rating, which translated to some 84 million viewers, once final viewership across 11 networks (including PBS) was tallied.

NBC, ABC and Fox News lead viewership in a tight contest for bragging rights. NBC and ABC both grabbed a 6.6 rating/10 share in Nielsen’s 56 overnight metered markets, which cover about 70% of U.S. TV households.

Fox News Channel was right behind with a 6.5/9. CBS was on the heels of its broadcast rivals with 6.1/9, followed by CNN (5.7/8), Fox broadcast network (4.6/7) and MSNBC (3.6/5).

Nielsen’s preliminary estimates for the commercial-free live telecast, which ran roughly 9 p.m.-10:40 p.m. ET, are subject to significant revision when final national ratings are released later today. These ratings are not time-zone adjusted.

The top five local markets for the debate were: Fort Myers, Fla. (52.3), West Palm Beach, Fla. (49.6), Pittsburgh (46.2),  Atlanta (46) and New York City (45.5).

More TV

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • BBC ITV BritBox Streaming

    BritBox to Roll Out in the U.K. in Fourth Quarter

    British broadcasters the BBC and ITV have formally agreed to launch their joint streaming service, BritBox, in the U.K. in the fourth quarter of 2019. It will be priced at £5.99 per month, making it the same price as the cheapest Netflix subscription in the U.K. ITV will control BritBox, holding a 90% stake. The [...]

  • Kamala Harris

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Face Rematch in Next Democratic Debate

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris will have the opportunity to square off again in the second debate among Democratic hopefuls vying for their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election CNN, which will broadcast the next round of debates on July 30 and 31, televised a draw Thursday night that decided [...]

  • Jon Wax

    Jon Wax Joins Amazon Studios as Head of Genre Programming

    YouTube’s head of scripted programming Jon Wax is joining Amazon Studios as its head of genre programming, Variety has learned. Wax will take up the position recently vacated by Sharon Tal Yguado. He had joined YouTube in August 2017, heading up drama, unscripted and current programming for YouTube’s premium channel. Prior to that, he had [...]

  • South Park Donald Trump

    TV News Roundup: Comedy Central Sets 'South Park' Season 23 Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Comedy Central announces the premiere date of “South Park” Season 23 and Netflix sets the premiere date and offers a first look at “Unbelievable.”  DATES Comedy Central announced that Season 23 of “South Park” will premiere Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. Because the episodes are written and animated so [...]

  • US actor Kevin Spacey (C) is

    Kevin Spacey Shouldn't Be Exonerated in Hollywood Even as Criminal Case Ends (Column)

    The news that criminal charges against Kevin Spacey in the Nantucket groping case have been dropped raises an inevitable question: does this mean he can claw his way back into Hollywood’s good graces? Or maybe more importantly: should it?  Spacey’s rapid descent was startling, even as it quickly followed that of the once untouchable producing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content