Trump City Hall was simulcast by two of NBC’s cable channels, MSNBC and CNBC, but even when those channels are included in the total, Biden – on just one network – was still victorious.
Trump City Hall averaged 10.6 million viewers on the NBC broadcast network. On MSNBC, Trump reached 1.74 million viewers and on CNBC about 671,000 viewers. So Trump’s gross audience across the three channels was 13 million, about a million fewer than Biden’s audience on ABC alone.
ABC News employees privately admitted to their surprise when the preliminary ratings came in on Friday.
The Nielsen ratings only measure viewership on television sets. Both town halls were also streamed live to phones, computers and other devices.
In the run-up to Thursday night, the Biden campaign embraced the popular tale and predicted that Trump would defeat Biden. Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said, “We get a much larger audience than Joe.”
Trump has been a Nielsen connoisseur for decades. While hosting “The Apprentice” on NBC, he was very attentive to the performance of his show and routinely exaggerated its success. He has continued to fix TV ratings during his years in the White House and has often congratulated Fox News for his ratings victories.
There is no industry standard for measuring all the different ways in which town halls were streamed, both live and on-demand. In any case, it would be like trying to combine apples and oranges. In the battle between apples and apples between the two candidates, Biden had the better night.
While surprising to many media and political observers, Biden’s rating strength has been palpable for several months.
When Trump attended a town hall on ABC last month, the event averaged 3.8 million viewers.
When Biden held a town hall on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC last week, it averaged 6.7 million viewers.