Final Trump-Clinton Face-Off Draws 71.6 Million Viewers, Topping Second Debate

Fox News was the top network, pulling 11.3 million viewers.

In an atypical gain, viewership for the final presidential debate on Wednesday night topped the second debate.

Across 12 networks, the third showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump drew 71.6 million viewers, surpassing the 69 million viewers that tuned in for the second debate on Oct. 9. 

The Big Four broadcast networks' coverage pulled a total 38.1 million viewers. Among the individual networks, ABC led with 11 million of those viewers, followed by NBC (10.4 million), CBS (10.1 million) and Fox (6.6 million). PBS drew 2.7 million viewers. Univision and Telemundo followed with 2.4 million and 1.6 million, respectively, to add another 4 million. 

Fox News, whose own Chris Wallace moderated Wednesday's debate, topped all networks with 11.3 million viewers. CNN followed for cable news networks with 8.7 million, while MSNBC pulled 5.5 million. (Fox Business Network added 714,000, and CNBC drew an additional 547,000).

In comparison to the third debate, which garnered a 39.7 overnight rating, the second debate, which came just days after the release of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, pulled in a 37.2 overnight for six networks. (NBC was showing Sunday Night Football during the second debate.)

It's worth noting that Wednesday night's showdown was also the first presidential debate this year that didn't face TV competition from the NFL, with the last two airing on Monday and Sunday. It also brought back typical leader NBC News, which bowed out of airing the second debate on account of its Sunday Night Football contract.

Neither of the last two presidential elections reached any ratings highs in their third debates — though all remained incredibly competitive. The final meeting between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012 averaged 59.2 million viewers, a stronger performance than the one four years earlier when Obama and John McCain closed out their three-debate series at 56.5 million viewers. 

Leading up to Wednesday night, the 2016 debate cycle was still handily outperforming both of the last two presidential debate series — and, well, all previous debates. The record-setting opener, which averaged 84.4 million viewers, was followed by a still-robust 69 million viewers.