8:17am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: Donald Trump's RNC Speech Tops Romney With 34 Million Viewers, Falls Far Short of McCain
The Republican National Convention clearly reached its crescendo on Thursday night. The four-day run-up until Donald Trump's accepting of the nomination, while giving a strong ratings performance, did not bring any atypical highs for the political meetup. Trump's speech didn't change that narrative by much.
With all three broadcast networks and cable news networks now tallied for the 10 p.m. hour, it appears just over 34 million viewers tuned into Trump's extended time on stage.
On the broadcast networks alone Thursday night, Trump's time on the stage brought in 12.3 million viewers to the 10 o'clock hour on through the speech's conclusion at 11:37 p.m. ET. NBC News led its fourth and final night of primetime coverage with an average 4.6 million viewers tuning in, per Nielsen Media's Fast Affiliate ratings. ABC News, which preciously topped CBS on Monday, averaged 3.9 million viewers. CBS News took 3.8 million viewers. Spanish-language net Univision contributed another 1.3 million viewers. (PBS climbed to 2.75 million viewers in the primetime hour on Thursday.)
Cable news brought the biggest lifts — particularly for Fox News Channel and CNN. FNC, a favorite for right-leaning audiences, topped them all with 9.4 million viewers. And CNN, hitting an all-time high for its RNC coverage, also topped all of the broadcast networks with 5.5 million viewers. MSNBC, trailing, averaged 2.95 million viewers. (Nielsen's delivery of the 32-million stat also includes Fox Business Network, CNBC and NBC Universo.)
Prior to Thursday, the broadcast networks have been contributing in the area of 10 million viewers to gross RNC ratings. The cable news aggregate typically topped that showing by a million-or-so viewers. High ratings have certainly the candidate's mind. His latest tweet, as of Friday morning, crowed about the RNC ratings. But it is now clear his ratings record-breaking is limited to debate appearances.
To prove to be a bigger draw than RNC headliners of the recent past, Trump's final tally would need to be higher than 30.3 million to top Mitt Romney in 2012. The candidate already has that in the bag. But with nearly 40 million viewers tuning into John McCain in 2008, that showing will not be matched.
The TV race in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 saw rankings for total viewership hold. FNC (2.5 million) and CNN (1.9 million) topped them all, with NBC News (1.8 million) leading broadcast coverage. ABC (1.4 million), CBS (1.2 million) and MSNBC (927,000) followed.
Prior to Thursday, the 2016 RNC had been averaging 22 million viewers across eight ad-supported networks.