Here Are Ratings for the ABC and NBC Town Halls

By A.J. Katz 

NBC News Group and ABC News went head to head in the 8 p.m. ET hour yesterday with highly publicized town halls featuring the two presidential candidates.

Despite airing its town hall across multiple networks, it appears NBC came up short to ABC.

According to early Nielsen data released this afternoon (that will be adjusted up later today), the two-hour ABC News Town Hall broadcast with former vice president Biden, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, delivered 13.9 million total viewers and 4.57 million adults 25-54 from 8-10 p.m. ET.


Meanwhile, NBC News’ hourlong town hall with President Trump, moderated by Savannah Guthrie, delivered 13.1 million total viewers and 3.62 million adults 25-54 across three networks from 8-9 p.m. ET.

ABC’s 13.9 million total viewers figure represents its largest average audience in that particular two-hour time period in over 10 years.

Head-to-head against the Trump town hall, the first hour of the Biden town hall (8-9 p.m. ET) averaged 14.1 million total viewers and 4.49 million adults 25-54.

Last night’s town hall with Biden significantly outdrew the 90-minute ABC News town hall with Trump on Sept. 16, which averaged just 3.97 million viewers. That’s a +250% difference.

NBC’s Trump town hall was +96% in total viewers and +163% in adults 25-54 versus its Oct. 5 town hall with former vp Biden, which drew 6.7 million total viewers across NBC, MSNBC and CNBC; 3.85 million of whom watched on NBC and 2.67 million on MSNBC (the rest watched the CNBC simulcast).

MSNBC’s simulcast of the Trump town hall drew 1.8 million total viewers, and 432,000 adults 25-54. If that sounds low for MSNBC’s 8 p.m. hour, that’s because it is. On the previous Thursday, Oct. 8, the network’s regularly scheduled 8 p.m. show, All In With Chris Hayes, drew nearly 2.6 million total viewers and 450,000 25-54. It’s also -31% from what the network drew for the Joe Biden town hall on Oct. 5.

Aided by its Shepard Smith lead-in, CNBC’s simulcast of the town hall drew 720,000 total viewers and 218,000 adults 25-54.

Once again, please note that this post will be updated with more accurate figures once they become available later in the day. These are prelims, not final live-plus-same-day data.

Oct. 15 town halls:

ABC NBC News Group
• Total Viewers: 13,900,000 13,100,000
• A25-54: 4,569,000 3,616,000




Oct. 15 town halls (8 p.m. hour only):

ABC NBC News Group
• Total Viewers: 14,100,000 13,100,000
• A25-54: 4,486,000 3,616,000




Roughly 73 million viewers watched the first debate, and while second presidential debates rarely outperform first debates, the difference isn’t particularly severe.

Keeping that in mind, it’s obvious that these candidates lost an opportunity to reach for more Americans, and if they wanted to bring their message to a wider swath of the public, they probably should have participated in an actual presidential debate, one-on-one.