The first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which saw Michelle Obama deliver a rousing speech to steal the show, drew a total of around 18.7 million viewers across all the cable and broadcast networks. That represents roughly a 27% dip from day one of the 2016 convention, which totaled 25.7 million pairs of eyeballs.
While that total number is likely to grow once every network that Nielsen includes in its final count is added in, the chances it surpasses the tally from last convention, or even the 26.2 million and 22.3 million who tune in to the previous two before that, are pretty slim.
MSNBC scored the largest audience on the night in the 10 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. window with 5.1 million viewers (which is actually an increase from the 4.6 million it drew in the same time period four years ago), followed closely by CNN with just under 4.8 million viewers (down over a million on 2016). Fox News’ coverage of proceedings drew 2.1 million viewers, which represents a 1.2 million viewer drop from the previous convention.
In terms of the coveted news demo of people aged 25-54, it was CNN which came out on top of the cable outfits with 1.5 million, followed by MSNBC with just over 1 million, and Fox News with 4380,000.
ABC drew the largest total audience as far as the broadcast networks were concerned. The Disney-owned network drew 2.4 million total viewers to its 10 p.m. coverage of the convention, with NBC coming in second with 2.3 million. CBS lagged behind in the third with just under 2 million, and was also narrowly beaten by Fox News in the 25-54 demo.
The fact that the 2020 DNC is substantially down on the last edition isn’t necessarily surprising given that much of this year’s convention is pre-taped and that television viewership as a whole has declined significantly in the last four years.
Speakers at last night’s convention focused on the “three crises” Democrats are seeking to underscore: the pandemic, mass unemployment and the crisis of racial justice.
Obama’s speech, which was pre-taped, touched on each of those and was without doubt the highlight of the night. Eva Longoria was the host, switching between political speeches, video montages and testimonials from regular citizens.