Early Ratings: Biden's ABC Town Hall Tops Trump's on NBC

Initial Nielsen numbers don’t include MSNBC viewership or time-zone adjustments


And the (ratings) battle of the Thursday town halls goes to…former Vice President Joe Biden and ABC! For now, at least.

On ABC, Biden drew 12.7 million viewers from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. On NBC alone, Trump got 10.4 million viewers in the same time slot.

Including the full 9 o’clock hour for Biden, the ABC event’s viewership average was 12.2 million.

Biden also beat Trump among adults 18-49, with a 2.6 rating to the president’s 1.7 rating.

The Trump town hall aired on NBC and was simulcast on NBCU cable channels MSNBC and CNBC. Trump was live coast-to-coast on cable, but waited for 8 p.m. PT for west-coasters. A few NBC affiliates in the mountain and pacific time zones may have elected to air Trump live.

The Biden town hall aired live coast-to-coast on ABC (and only ABC), which makes the above Nielsen numbers subject to significant adjustment for that network.

We’ll get the cable ratings — and final Nielsen numbers, which will be adjusted for time zone differences and include out-of-home viewing — later today.

To make things even less apples-to-apples, while both town halls started at 8 p.m. ET, Biden’s ran longer. While Trump’s event ended at 9 p.m. ET, Biden continued with moderator George Stephanopoulos until about 9:30 p.m. ET. The former vice president of the United States then stuck around answering questions from the sparse audience, though ABC News’ analysis ran over that audio.

NBC’s Oct. 5 Biden town hall initially drew 3.8 million viewers, according to the early, comparable (to our above numbers) data set from Nielsen.

In final, adjusted numbers that also — and more importantly — lumped in cable channels MSNBC (2.7 million) and CNBC (171,000), the Oct. 5 Biden town hall jumped to 6.7 million viewers, making the simulcast the most-watched town hall of the 2020 cycle. It also topped the 2016 town halls.

An additional 2 million viewers streamed the event on NBC News Now, NBC said.

Prior to Thursday, Trump’s lone town hall audience came in at 4 million viewers Sept. 15 on ABC, according to Nielsen. That broadcast-only number was better than Biden’s Oct. 5 NBC-only haul of 3.9 million viewers, which goes to show the power of a simulcast.

ABC, which is owned by Disney, does not really have cable channels that would make sense for a news programming simulcast. (We’re looking at you, ESPN and Freeform.)

In addition to his two thus far this October, Biden has had eight — yes, eight — other town halls in the past year or so. All have aired solely on CNN.

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