51.3 million watched debate between Trump, Biden

Just over 50 million people watched Thursday night’s presidential debate between President Biden and former President Trump on linear televisions, nearly 20 million fewer than watched the first clash of the 2020 cycle between the same candidates.

Thursday’s CNN debate, which was simulcast by nearly every other broadcast and cable network, netted 51.3 million viewers, the network said, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.

That total is well short of the more than 70 million Nielsen found watched the September 2020 debate between Biden and Trump. The totals do not include viewers who watched the debate on streaming services, listened on radio or followed along on social media.

CNN said the event was nevertheless the highest rated program it has ever put on its air and was the largest livestreamed event on its digital properties.

The event netted more than 30 million live starts on the outlet’s YouTube page and accounted for the largest audience for a live event on MAX, the streaming service of its parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, though it did not give specific figures.

During Thursday’s debate, Biden was at times difficult to understand and struggled to finish his thoughts. Trump meanwhile made a number of false or misleading statements that went largely unchecked by the event’s moderators or Biden.

The president’s performance in front of the national audience has sparked some leading Democrats and media observers to suggest he drop out of the race, fearing he could lose to Trump this fall.

Updated: 4:53 p.m.

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