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Data: Nielsen; Note: Night one of the 2008 and 2012 conventions were pushed due to hurricanes; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Increasing partisanship, competing streaming options and the mostly virtual nature of this year's programming may help explain why TV ratings for both conventions were way down compared with 2016.

Why it matters: Ratings are not a proxy for popularity or voter enthusiasm, but they do provide a loose sense of which party and figures are capturing the attention of the country.

By the numbers: Viewership for the Republican National Convention was down about 21% on average this year across all four nights compared with 2016, per figures from Nielsen, while the Democratic National Convention's was down about 17%.

  • The DNC averaged 21.57 million viewers in the 10 p.m. prime-time hour across the four nights that it aired last week, while the RNC averaged 18.8 million viewers over that period this week.
  • President Trump's nomination acceptance speech at the White House on Thursday was watched by 23.8 million people, just shy of the 24.6 million people who tuned in for Joe Biden's speech the week before.

The numbers show how increasing partisanship in America may be curtailing viewership.

  • The ratings drop for the RNC and the DNC were heaviest in viewership via traditional broadcast networks like CBS, NBC and ABC, compared to cable. Broadcast news networks tend to attract less partisan viewers than their cable counterparts.
  • Fox News received the most total viewers among all networks, cable and broadcast, across all four days of the RNC, while MSNBC beat out all other broadcast and cable networks for every night of the DNC.

Between the lines: There's no way of measuring exactly how many people streamed the conventions or watched clips on social channels, but presumably, millions more Americans tuned in online via streaming and clips on social media.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Nov 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News

Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios.

The state of play: Some Trump advisers think Fox News made a mistake with an early call (seconded by AP) of President-elect Biden's win in Arizona. That enraged Trump, and gave him something tangible to use in his attacks on the network.

Nov 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

Streaming becomes lifeline for struggling entertainment giants

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Disney's stock skyrocketed Thursday after the company reported a whopping 73.7 million paid Disney+ subscriber additions in its first year — a number that beat even its own ambitious streaming goals.

Why it matters: The fortuitous timing of the launch of Disney+ a year ago has saved the entertainment giant from economic disaster amid the coronavirus. And it's not alone.

4 mins ago - Sports

Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars Olympic finals

Photo: Fred Lee via Getty Images

Simone Biles will not compete in the individual vault or uneven bars finals at the Tokyo Olympics, USA Gymnastics announced Friday.

Why it matters: Biles drew global attention after stepping out of the individual all-around and team finals to prioritize her mental health. It's unclear if she will compete in the balance beam or floor exercise events.