UPDATE with final Nielsen numbers: An average of 84 million people tuned in to watch the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Nielsen said in releasing final numbers for the telecast. The statistic includes viewing by 13 networks airing live coverage from about 9 PM-11:45 PM ET.
The networks included in Nielsen’s tally: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Azteca, Univision, Telemundo, PBS, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business Network and MSNBC.
An earlier report had a tally of 81M viewers across 12 networks. Nielsen’s number added PBS. Neither of those totals includes viewing via C-Span which during the debate was being recommended by some on Twitter owing to its complete lack of annoying network talking heads.
PREVIOUS, 12:30 PM: Donald Trump has broken another TV ratings record in his bid for the White House.
Across 12 TV networks that carried live Trump’s first skirmish on the same stage with Hillary Clinton, 81 million viewers tuned in, setting a new record for televised presidential debates.
That total does not include PBS or C-Span, whose tallies are typically not included in numbers issued to commercial networks, one of which, CNN, looked at the data and first reported the total take across the dozen nets.
Viewing also does not including people who watched outside their homes, in bars, etc. — but then Nielsen never has included those stats in its tally tracks of TV’s 60 years of televised presidential debates.
That initial 81M for the Trump/Clinton clambake also does not include online viewing, which this year more than ever will drive up significantly the viewing level.
All of these adds will catapult the Clinton-Trump kerfuffle over the previous record holder: Ronald Reagan’s one 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, which logged 81M.
President Obama’s first debate against Mitt Romney, for comparison’s sake, averaged 67M viewers in 2012.
Nielsen will issue its formal tally later today.