Aug 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

TV ratings plummet for Democratic convention

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

TV viewership for the Democratic National Convention was down about 17% on average this year across all four nights compared to 2016.

Why it matters: The drop is likely attributable, at least in part, to the virtual nature of the convention and the plethora of streaming and digital viewing options that exist today.

  • About 15% fewer American households have pay-TV now than they did then.
  • Joe Biden's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention drew the highest ratings of any night during the four-day event, according to Nielsen ratings.

Details: MSNBC received the most total viewers among all networks, cable and broadcast, across the four-day event. Fox, which usually dominates the evening primetime hours in viewership, lagged way behind.

The big picture: The numbers show how a growing sense of partisan news consumption in America may have curtailed viewership.

  • The ratings drop was weighted more heavily to massive decreases in viewership of traditional broadcast networks like CBS, NBC and ABC, compared to cable, which typically has more politically active viewers.

Be smart: There's no way of measuring exactly how many people streamed the convention or watched clips of it on social channels, but presumably, millions more Americans tuned in online.

  • The Biden campaign told CNN that over four days, there were roughly 35.5 million livestream views combined over the online platforms of organizations that streamed the convention.
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