Early Nielsen Data Shows 19.9 Million Viewers Watched Last Night’s RNC Coverage Across 6 Networks, Up From Night 3, but Down From 2016

By A.J. Katz 

Nielsen update 5:15 p.m. ET: An estimated 23.8 million people tuned in to watch the final night of the 2020 RNC. Day 4 was carried across 13 networks, and the live coverage period of 10-11:45 p.m. ET featured Ivanka Trump and President Donald Trump formally accepting his nomination as the 2020 Republican presidential candidate.

While coverage varied by network, all 13 aired live coverage from approximately 10 p.m. ET to 11:45 p.m. ET. Those networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, PBS, CNN, CNNe, Fox Business Network, Fox News, MSNBC, Newsmax and Newsy.

FBN’s delivery from 10-11:45 p.m. was 1.2 million total viewers and 327,000 in the 24-54 demo.



President Donald Trump gave the keynote speech and formally accepted the Republican Party nomination for president to close the fourth and final night of an eventful 2020 Republican National Convention.

What did the tune-in numbers look like? According to early Nielsen ratings data, 19.85 million total viewers and 5.22 million adults 25-54 tuned in to watch the 10-11:45 p.m. ET common coverage period across six broadcast and cable networks: CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC, ABC and CBS. This total does not include streaming viewership figures, non-Nielsen-measured networks (like C-SPAN) or the Spanish-language broadcasters.

Final data from five additional networks will be released at approximately 6 p.m. ET, and the above totals will obviously increase.

As of now, the final night of this year’s RNC is down 34% in total viewers and down 46% in A25-54 demo viewers versus the final night of the 2016 RNC, which drew 30 million across six networks, and eventually 32.2 million across 11 networks. However, the final night of this year’s RNC was up 26% in total viewers and up 37% in A25-54 demo viewers versus the previous night. Night 3 was highlighted by vice president Michael Pence‘s nomination acceptance speech.

How do these totals compare with the final night of the DNC, an evening featuring former vice president Joe Biden formally accepting the Democratic Party nomination for president? Early Nielsen data showed the final night of the DNC drew 21.8 million total viewers and 5.4 million adults 25-54 across the top three cablers and top three broadcasters. That’s a 9% difference in total viewers, but only a 4% difference in adults 25-54.

After final live-plus-same-day data rolled in, the DNC closing night total climbed from 21.8 million to 24.6 million total viewers across 10 networks. We’ll find out what the final RNC Night 4 total is later today.

Fox News dominated the landscape on the final night yet again, averaging a 2020 RNC-record 9.2 million total viewers and 2.2 million in the demo. The network was up night to night but down year over year.

Of the 19.9 million who watched across the six Nielsen-measured networks, 46% watched Fox News, 13% on ABC, 11% on NBC, 11% on CNN, 9% on MSNBC and 9% watched common coverage of the final night on CBS.

ABC was the No. 1 broadcast network last night in both total viewers and among adults 25-54. It was also the second most-watched network overall last night, only behind Fox News. ABC had To Tell the Truth as its lead-in. NBC had Law & Order as its lead-in, and CBS had Love Island as its lead-in.

CNN was the No. 2 network last night among adults 25-54, outperforming ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS in the ad-friendly demo. CBS averaged the smallest total audience, while MSNBC averaged the fewest adults 25-54 last night.

For the week, Fox News set a cable news convention coverage record this week in total viewership with 7.8 million in prime time.

  • Aug. 27: 10-11:45 p.m. ET | Total Viewers / Night-to-Night Change % / Year-Over-Year Change %

Fox News: 9,182,000/+30% / -2%

ABC: 2,575,000/ +36% /-33%

NBC: 2,280,000/ +16% / -50%

CNN: 2,182,000/ +44% / -60%

MSNBC: 1,850,000/ +25% / -37%

CBS: 1,783,000/ flat / -53%

  • Aug. 27: 10-11:45 p.m. ET | A25-54 Demo/ Night-to-Night Change % / Year-Over-Year Change %

Fox News: 2,164,000/+56% / -13%

CNN: 757,000/ +55% / -60%

ABC: 725,000/ +36% / -49%

NBC: 722,000/ +21% / -59%

CBS: 460,000/-7% / -62%

MSNBC: 391,000/ +26% / -58%