The 2016 Democratic National Convention got off to a dramatic start, and viewers flocked to their TVs to watch the action. In fact, the overwhelming majority of English language cable and broadcast networks that televised the event saw a significant improvement in viewership compared to opening night coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention. Additionally, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all set total prime time viewer records for opening night of a DNC, per Nielsen Media Research going back to 2004.
CNN was the go-to network for night 1 coverage, continuing a trend of viewers choosing cable over broadcast for 2016 convention coverage. CNN defeated all cable and broadcast competition during the 10 – 11:30 p.m. ET block, both in total viewers and in the key A25-54 demo. First Lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered speeches during this time interval.
CNN also defeated its cable competition during prime time (8 – 11 p.m. ET). The network was up 70 percent in total prime time viewers and up 70 percent in the news demo compared to opening night of the 2012 DNC. The network was also up 42 percent in total prime time viewers and up 44 percent in the news demo compared to day 1 of the 2016 RNC.
MSNBC finished ahead of Fox News last night, both in total viewers and in the news demo during prime time and in the 10 – 11:30 p.m. ET block. “The Place for Politics” also beat each of the broadcast networks in total viewers during that same time interval.
NBC was the top broadcast network of the night, beating ABC and CBS both in total viewers and in the news demo. NBC also beat its broadcast competition on all 4 nights of the 2016 RNC.
CBS, on the other hand, had a rough start to the DNC. The Eye finished last in total viewers, even falling to Fox News in the category. That said, CBS finished ahead of Fox News in the key news demo. Interestingly, last night’s prime time coverage of the first night of the 2016 DNC marks Fox News’ most-watched night for DNC coverage in network history.
The 10 – 11:30 p.m. ET block on opening night of the 2016 DNC delivered a combined 25.74 million total viewers across the six networks (CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News). The 10 – 11 p.m. ET hour on day 1 of the 2016 RNC delivered a combined 22.81 million total viewers across the aforementioned six networks. That’s a 13 percent difference.
CNN, Fox News and MSNBC combined to deliver 12.6 million total prime time viewers on opening night, significantly up from the combined 8.82 million who tuned into opening night coverage of the 2012 DNC. That’s a 43 percent improvement. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC delivered a combined 11.0 million total prime time viewers on opening night of the 2016 RNC. That’s a 14 percent difference.
- July 25: 10-11:30 p.m. ET | Total Viewers / A25-54 Demo
CNN: 6,208,000 / 2,187,000
MSNBC: 4,597,000 / 1,398,000
NBC: 4,293,000 / 1,731,000
ABC: 4,107,000 / 1,351,000
Fox News: 3,330,000 / 898,000
CBS: 3,206,000 / 1,052,000
- July 25: 8- 11 p.m. ET | Total Viewers / A25-54 Demo
CNN: 5,120,000 / 1,702,000
MSNBC: 3,749,000 / 1,075,000
Fox News: 3,731,000 / 858,000