First round of Clinton-Trump drew largest debate audience in U.S. history

Additionally, an estimated 2.5 million people watched via livestream on YouTube.

By Eric DuVall and Doug G. Ware
First round of Clinton-Trump drew largest debate audience in U.S. history
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes the hand of Democrat Hillary Clinton after the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Monday. The event was the most watched political debate in American history, drawing at least 84 million viewers, Nielsen Research said Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- No presidential debate in American history had a larger audience than Monday night's event between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, ratings figures show.

According to Nielsen Media Research, an average of 84 million people watched the debate on one of the networks that carried it live from New York's Hofstra University on Monday. That figure alone is sufficient to break the old record of 80.6 million viewers set during a 1980 debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.


The total audience for Monday's event grows even larger when the millions of online livestream viewers are factored in -- as well as untold others on CSPAN, which is not measured.

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Another sector of the audience not counted are those who watched at bars, airports, restaurants and businesses.

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All told, the true number of viewers is almost certainly higher than 85 million and likely surpasses 90 million.

NBC notched the biggest audience, 18 million, possibly because network anchor Lester Holt moderated the first debate. ABC was second (13.5 million), followed by CBS (12.1), Fox News (11.4), CNN (9.9), Fox (5.5), MSNBC (4.9), Univision (2.5) and Telemundo (1.8).


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joins husband Bill and daughter Chelsea after the first presidential debate with Republican Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Monday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

YouTube estimated various live feeds totaled 2.5 million people. That does not include the hundreds of news sites that had their own streaming video sources.

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"In terms of the social nature of the debate, there were 17.1 million Twitter interactions from 2.7 million people in the U.S. related to the "Presidential Debate" on Monday," Nielsen said in a statement.

In 2012, the first debate between President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney averaged an audience of 67 million viewers.

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Monday's audience was right around where industry executives expected it to be, between 80 and 100 million.


There are an estimated 115.6 million U.S. households with at least one television.

The next debate between Clinton and Trump is scheduled for Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis. and will be moderated by ABC News' Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper.

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