In a ratings duel featuring competing town hall forums with the two leading presidential candidates, viewers favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump Thursday.
ABC’s special with Democratic nominee Biden averaged 14.14 viewers over two hours, per Nielsen’s final same-day ratings, including a half-hour of analysis after the forum. The 90-minute question-and-answer portion drew about 15.1 million people.
On NBC, Trump’s one-hour town hall, which was simulcast on MSNBC and CNBC drew 13.46 million million viewers. The final figures include adjustments for live telecasts and out of home viewing as well as the cable figures, which gave significant bumps to both programs.
ABC also topped the key news demographic of adults 25-54 with a 3.8 rating, versus 3.1 for NBC, and among adults 18-49 with a 3.0 to NBC’s 2.2.
MSNBC (1.83 million viewers) and CNBC (720,000) added about 2.55 million viewers to NBC’s total of 10.91 million. Counting just the broadcast networks, ABC had an advantage of better than 3 million viewers over NBC.
While each town hall drew sizable numbers, the combined audience for the two is a fraction of what Trump and Biden would likely have gathered for a second presidential debate, which was canceled after the two campaigns didn’t agree on a remote format following the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
The first debate between the two drew more than 73 million viewers across 18 outlets, making it the second-most-watched presidential debate ever. The vice presidential debate on Oct. 5 drew 57.92 million people.
The dueling town halls followed the debate’s cancellation. ABC booked its event with Biden first, and NBC followed with its Trump event to air at the same time (it also aired on sister cable networks MSNBC and CNBC).
Some 100 industry power players, including Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay and EP Warren Leight, castmembers from This Is Us and its creator, Dan Fogelman, objected to the head-to-head scheduling. NBC News defended the move, saying the timing was “motivated only by fairness, not business considerations.”
Elsewhere Thursday, a simulcast of the National League Championship Series on Fox and FS1 drew 5.04 million viewers, easily the biggest audience for either league championship series this year. Fox News’ Hannity was the top show on cable by a sizable margin with 5.84 million viewers.
Bookmark THR.com/Ratings for more ratings news and numbers.
Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. Updated with final ratings figures.