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Night One of the Presidential Debate Rises by 21 Percent in the Overnights from the First Night of the Presidential Debate in 2012

Percent Increase Based on the Big 3 Networks

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Household Rating/Share
NBC: 9.5/14, ABC: 7.8/11, CBS: 7.4/11, Fox: 3.1/ 4, CW: 0.8/ 1

Percent Change From the Year-Ago Evening:
NBC: +30, Fox: +19, ABC: +15, CBS: +12, CW: no change


-Ratings Analysis:
Last night was certainly ignited by the first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Based on the 56-overnight markets, NBC topped the coverage with (including the analysis in the 10:30 p.m. ET half-hour) an estimated 11.0 rating/15 share in households from 9-11 p.m. Next was ABC at an 8.4/12, followed by CBS at 7.5/10. A 3.7/ 5 in the household overnights for Fox was based on the 9 p.m. hour only. As a reminder, overnight results for any live event are always approximate.

Excluding Fox, which again only includes overnight data for the 9 p.m. hour, the Big 4 nets, in total, scored a hefty 26.9 rating/37 share. Comparably, this was 21 percent above night one of the first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and Republican Governor Mitt Romney (22.3 rating/32 share from 9-11 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012: ABC and NBC: 7.7/11 each, CBS: 6.9/10). And this, of course, does not include coverage on all the additional broadcasting outlets (including the cable news networks).

Nielsen reported 67.2 million viewers for the first night of the debate in 2012 (based on 12 broadcasting outlets). Using the 21 percent overnight increase, last night’s total audience number should easily top 81-million viewers (and potentially more, given the additional outlets airing the debate). Stay tuned for updates.

At 8 p.m. (which is also estimated due to the Central Time Zones), “The Big Bang Theory ”on CBS topped the entertainment-themed programming for the evening with a 9.2/14 in the 8 p.m. half-hour. That led into a respectable 6.5/10 in the overnights for week two of Kevin James sitcom “Kevin Can Wait,” which dropped by only eight percent from its 7.1/11 week-ago opener. Comparably, overnight retention for “Kevin Can Wait” out of “The Big Bang Theory” increased from 67 percent to 71 percent.

In the battle of the reality competitions, both with very different audiences and both a one hour version, NBC’s “The Voice” (7.7/12) bested ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (7.5/11) by three percent. But “The Voice’s” adult 18-49 advantage will certainly be much greater.

Fox could not compete with “Gotham” at a diluted 2.6/ 4 in the ovenrights, which was 24 percent below the 3.4/ 5 on the year-ago evening. And two encore telecasts of “Supergirl” on The CW averaged a 0.7/ 1 in the overnights from 8-10 p.m.

Here is the half-hour breakdown:

8:00 p.m.
ABC – “Dancing With the Stars”: 7.3/11 (#2)
CBS – “The Big Bang Theory”: 9.2/14 (#1)
NBC – “The Voice”: 7.2/11 (#3)
Fox – “Gotham”: 2.6/ 4 (#4)
CW – “Supergirl” (R): 0.7/ 1 (#5)

8:30 p.m.
ABC – “Dancing With the Stars”: 7.6/11 (#3)
CBS – “Kevin Can Wait”: 6.5/10 (#3)
NBC – “The Voice”: 8.1/12 (#2)
Fox – “Gotham”: 2.5/ 4 (#4)
CW – “Supergirl” (R): 0.7/ 1 (#5)

9:00 p.m.
ABC – Presidential Debate: 8.3/12 (#2)
CBS – Presidential Debate: 7.4/10 (#3)
NBC – Presidential Debate: 10.8/15 (#1)
Fox – Presidential Debate: 3.5/ 5 (#4)
CW – “Supergirl” (R): 0.8/ 1 (#5)

9:30 p.m.
ABC – Presidential Debate: 8.6/12 (#2)
CBS – Presidential Debate: 7.6/10 (#3)
NBC – Presidential Debate: 11.2/15 (#1)
Fox – Presidential Debate: 3.9/ 5 (#4)
CW – “Supergirl” (R): 0.8/ 1 (#5)

10:00 p.m.
ABC – Presidential Debate: 8.4/12 (#2)
CBS – Presidential Debate: 7.5/10 (#3)
NBC – Presidential Debate: 11.0/15 (#1)
Overnight results for Fox in the 10 p.m. hour are not available

10:30 p.m.
ABC – Presidential Debate/Analysis: 6.7/10 (#2)
CBS – Presidential Debate/Analysis: 6.3/ 9 (#3)
NBC – Presidential Debate/Analysis: 9.0/13 (#1)

Source: Nielsen Media Research

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of weekly column “Mr. Television” for Campaign US ( Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. Marc how did Gotham’s premiere do after timeshifting? I haven’t seen it anywhere but I did read about SHIELD’s big gain. I enjoy both shows.