The final night of the Republican convention, which featured President Trump’s acceptance speech from the White House South Lawn, had an average audience of 21.6 million viewers Thursday, putting it behind the TV turnout for his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
The early number from Nielsen that includes ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision and the three major cable news networks is 8% lower than the comparable figure for Biden’s speech at his convention on Aug. 20.
The final total for Trump’s speech out later today will be slightly higher, as it includes PBS and other networks that carried the speech. Biden’s final total was 24.6 million viewers.
Trump’s total will also finish well below the 35 million TV viewers who watched him accept his party’s nomination in 2016, and will fall short of the acceptance speeches of previous Republican nominees John McCain (38.9 million viewers in 2008), Mitt Romney (30.3 million viewers in 2012) and George W. Bush (27.6 million in 2004).
TV viewing for both 2020 conventions is down from four years ago, as many viewers are likely to have watched some portion of the event through online streaming platforms which are not included in the Nielsen ratings.
Additionally, Trump’s audience was probably diminished by the 70-minute length of his address, which ended after 11:30 p.m. Eastern. The number of people watching television typically declines as the night goes on.
TV commentators noted the duration of Trump’s speech, but it was actually shorter than his 2016 address, which clocked in at 75 minutes.
Fox News was the most-watched channel for coverage between 10 and 11:45 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, with an average of 9.2 million viewers, followed by ABC (2.6 million), NBC (2.3 million), CNN (2.2 million) and MSNBC (1.85 million), CBS (1.78 million), Univision (927,000) and Telemundo (804,000).
Fox News — the prime-time destination for Trump fans — had the dominant share of viewers throughout the week with its coverage led by anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. While the network’s popular conservative opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity appeared in prime time during the week, they were not part of the main hour of convention coverage covered by all of the networks.
While Fox News is a destination for viewers looking for talking heads that support the Trump White House, the network did not allow any of its paid contributors to participate in the convention proceedings. CNN and MSNBC made exceptions for their contributors during the Democratic convention.