Biden-Trump First 2024 Debate TV Ratings Fall Hard Compared to 2020

By Chanak Maduranga

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Biden-Trump First 2024 Debate TV Ratings Fall Hard Compared to 2020
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The first debate face-off (of the 2024 election cycle, at least) between President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Donald Trump drew a big audience — but not nearly as big as their 2020 debates.

The 99-minute debate, produced by CNN but aired on 16 other networks, averaged 51.27 million viewers, according to final same-day ratings from Nielsen. That’s down by 30 percent from the candidates’ first debate in 2020, which drew 73.13 million viewers. (Thursday’s Nielsen-measured audience doesn’t include streaming.)

The debate, which most commentators said went poorly for Biden (with a few caveats), is the earliest general-election forum since televised debates debuted in 1960, taking place even before the two major party conventions. It was also the first general-election debate since 1988 that wasn’t organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

CNN drew 9.53 million viewers, better than its performance for either Biden-Trump debate in 2020, and narrowly beat Fox News (9.28 million viewers) and ABC (9.21 million) for the lead among individual outlets. Including simulcasts on Fox broadcast network (3.68 million viewers) and Fox Business (397,000), the Fox feed accounted for about 13.4 million TV viewers, the most for any media company ahead of NBCUniversal (5.39 million on NBC, 4.12 million on MSNBC and about 900,000 on Telemundo) and Warner Bros. Discovery, which got about 300,000 additional viewers on HLN and CNNe. CBS averaged 5.01 million viewers; the remaining 3.45 million or so viewers watched on Scripps News, Univision, BET, Newsmax, NewsNation and PBS.

CNN also says an additional 2.36 million viewers saw the debate on its digital platforms, including 864,000 on Max (whose figure includes 21 minutes of post-debate coverage). Thursday was the biggest day ever for CNN on Max.

Prior to Thursday, the first general-election debates of an election cycle averaged about 63.8 million viewers each (excluding 1980, for which figures aren’t available). Only two, in 1996 (46.1 million viewers) and 2000 (46.6 million), have come in under 50 million viewers.

June 28, 11:25 a.m. Updated with audience figures for NBC, CBS and Fox Business.

June 28, 2:37 p.m. Updated with final ratings figures.

Chanak Maduranga

passionate journalist behind 'USA News Now 24', dedicated to delivering timely and accurate updates on US affairs. Committed to journalistic integrity and informing audiences with credible news coverage.

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