Politics is more exciting than football — that is if Monday night’s ratings are any indication. More viewers tuned in for the presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump than watched the Atlanta Falcons-New Orleans Saints clash on “Monday Night Football.”
Sports Media Watch said the football game drew an overnight rating of 5.7 on ESPN, possibly an all-time low for the broadcast. The audience was down 36 percent from last year’s Week 3 contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers and off 38 percent from 2014 Chicago Bears-New York Jets matchup.
The numbers were better in Atlanta and New Orleans where ESPN earned ratings of 14.1 and 12.5, respectively. WDSU, New Orleans, which simulcast the game, earned a 25.8 rating.
The debate garnered a 46.2 rating across nine broadcast and cable channels. Observers say the debate may have been watch by 100 million viewers, eclipsing the 1980 Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter face-off, which was watched by 81 million viewers, the Washington Post reported. The first 2012 debate drew 67 million viewers.
Nielsen put the audience at 81 million viewers, Politico said. But that doesn’t include people who watched the confrontation online. Fox topped other cable platforms with 11 million, including 3.5 million in the coveted 25-54 demographic, while NBC led the broadcast networks with 18 million watchers; ABC, 13.5 million; and CBS, 12.1 million.
Money Magazine said advertisers bulked up on pre-show and post-show analysis spots. Variety reported CBS charged $200,000 to $225,000 for a 30-second spot on the post-debate coverage while cable channels cajoled advertisers to buy larger packages of ad inventory for access. Variety said NBC sold out its ad inventory for the debate coverage.
"It's live programming. It's a big rating. It's watercooler conversation. It's everything advertisers are looking for these days," Paul Rittenberg, executive vice president of advertising sales for Fox News Channel, told AdWeek. "Our version of the Super Bowl — or at least the playoffs."
The 90-minute debate itself was commercial free.