Presidential Debate Coverage Dominates Monday's Cable Ratings

The first debate of the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton dominated the most watched shows on cable Monday night.  

Live debate coverage, along with pre and post-debate shows, secured nine of the top 10 most watched cable programs on Sept. 26 according to Nielsen, led by Fox News’ primetime coverage of the 90-minute debate. 

Fox News delivered 11.4 million viewers to top CNN (9.9  million viewers) and MSNBC (4.9 million viewers), according to Nielsen. Fox Business Network also averaged 672,000 viewers while CNBC averaged 520,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.

Only ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecast between The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints scored a top 10 finish among cable shows during the day.

Overall, the debate drew a record 84 million viewers across 13 networks,according to Nielsen. The debate easily topped the 67.1 million viewers tuning into the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

On the social media front, the debate generated 17.1 million Twitter interactions from 2.7 million people in the U.S., according to Nielsen.

Most Watched Cable Shows On Sept. 26

ShowNetworkTotal Viewers

Presidential Debate (9:03-10:40 pm)                                          Fox News                            11.4 million

Pres. Debate/Analysis (10:40 to 11 pm)                                     Fox News                              9.9 million

1st Presidential Debate (9:03-10:38 pm)                                      CNN                                     9.9 million

NFL Monday Night Football (Atl-NO)                                           ESPN                                   8.0 million

Debate Night In America (10:30-12 am)                                       CNN                                     6.9 million

The Kelly File (11 -12 am)                                                           Fox News                             5.3 million

Debate (9:03-10:40 pm)                                                              MSNBC                                 4.9 million

The O’Reilly Factor (8-9 pm)                                                       Fox News                               4.3 million

MSNBC Debate Analysis (10:40-12 am)                                       MSNBC                                  4.0 million

Anderson Cooper 360 (8-9:03 pm)                                                CNN                                       3.7 million

Source: Nielsen

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.