The final debate showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton saw a viewership gain from their second meeting, but the turnout didn’t top the blockbuster number delivered by the first debate last month.
According to preliminary Nielsen estimates, Wednesday’s debate delivered a 39.7 overnight household rating across seven networks, up from the 37.2 rating for the Oct. 9 debate, which went up against NFL competition. The Sept. 26 face-off that kicked off the three Clinton-Trump debates grabbed a 46.2 overnight rating, which translated to some 84 million viewers, once final viewership across 11 networks (including PBS) was tallied.
NBC, ABC and Fox News lead viewership in a tight contest for bragging rights. NBC and ABC both grabbed a 6.6 rating/10 share in Nielsen’s 56 overnight metered markets, which cover about 70% of U.S. TV households.
Fox News Channel was right behind with a 6.5/9. CBS was on the heels of its broadcast rivals with 6.1/9, followed by CNN (5.7/8), Fox broadcast network (4.6/7) and MSNBC (3.6/5).
Nielsen’s preliminary estimates for the commercial-free live telecast, which ran roughly 9 p.m.-10:40 p.m. ET, are subject to significant revision when final national ratings are released later today. These ratings are not time-zone adjusted.
The top five local markets for the debate were: Fort Myers, Fla. (52.3), West Palm Beach, Fla. (49.6), Pittsburgh (46.2), Atlanta (46) and New York City (45.5).
This story will be updated with more final numbers as they come in.