Armed with a solid 60 Minutes lead-in, and no NBC to compete against, CBS came away as the most-watched and highest-rated network when it came to coverage of the second 2016 presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Per Nielsen Media Research, CBS beat the competition both in total viewers and the key A25-54 news demo. The Eye improved by +36 percent in total viewers and +35 percent in the news demo from the first debate of 2016.
66.55 million total viewers watched last night’s debate across 11 networks. That’s a 1 percent improvement from the second Obama-Romney debate, and a 5 percent improvement from the second Obama-McCain debate.
Last night’s debate was the most-watched second presidential debate since 1992, when 69.9 million viewers tuned in to watch Bush–Clinton–Perot on October 15, 1992.
- 2016 Presidential Debate No. 2 | Total Viewers / A25-54 demo
CBS – 16,456,000/ 6,411,000
ABC – 11,512,000 / 4,641,000
CNN – 11,289,000 / 4,858,000
FNC – 9,888,000 / 2,928,000
FOX – 5,589,000 / 2,823,000
MSNBC- 5,542,000/ 1,761,000
PBS – 2,910,000 / 987,000
UNI – 2,364,000 / 1,213,000
FBN – 565,000 / 147,000
CNBC – 395,000 / 187,000
Azteca America – 43,000 / 26,000
It appears a large portion of the viewers who watched the first debate on NBC switched over to CBS for the second debate, with ABC losing traction.
ABC fell 15 percent in total viewers and -3 percent in the news demo from the first debate. ABC fell -8 percent in total viewers, but managed to improve 28.5 percent in the news demo from the second debate of 2012. FOX held steady last night in total viewers compared to the first debate, but rose 21 percent from the second Obama-Romney debate.
26.7 million viewers watched last night’s debate on the Big 3 cable news networks (Fox News, CNN and MSNBC). That’s a 23 percent improvement from Obama-Romney No. 2, and a 23 percent improvement from Obama-McCain No. 2.
CNN had a strong night, defeating cable news rivals MSNBC and Fox News in total viewers and in the key news demo. CNN improved +15 percent in total viewers from the first debate, +95 percent from the second Obama-Romney debate, and +22 percent from the second Obama-McCain debate. More millennials tuned into CNN for the debate than any other network.
MSNBC, which finished behind Fox News in both categories, still delivered its most-watched second debate of a presidential cycle ever. The network improved 13 percent in total viewers from the first debate, +13 percent from the second Obama-Romney debate, and +47 percent from the second Obama-McCain debate.
Fox News declined -13 percent from the first debate, and declined -11 percent from the second debate of 2012. But FNC grew +13 percent in total viewers from the second Obama-McCain debate.
In terms of the social nature of the debate, there were 62 million social media interactions across Facebook and Twitter from 18.2 million people in the U.S. related to the “Presidential Debate” on Sunday, Oct. 9 2016, according to Nielsen.
Additionally, Samba TV reports that of those who watched last night’s presidential debate for at least 5 minutes, 15 percent tuned away to watch the rest of Sunday Night Football on NBC; 17 percent watched post-debate analysis, but only 2 percent changed the channel to TBS to watch the Blue Jays beat the Rangers in the MLB Playoffs.