The dramatic rhetorical showdown between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Monday night just became the debate ratings blockbuster of all time — and they're still not done counting all the 'eyeballs' who watched it.
CNN reports that even without counting online streaming, watch parties, C-SPAN and PBS, there were more than 80 million people watching the debate Monday night.
The last time there were that many people riveted to TV to watch a debate was back in 1980 when California governor Ronald Reagan and incumbent Jimmy Carter went toe-to-toe.
CNN explains that there were nearly one million more viewers watching Monday than in 1980:
The final numbers are still being tallied by Nielsen. But the debate averaged a total of 80.9 million viewers across 12 of the channels that carried it live.
Nielsen traditionally measures viewers who watch via traditional TV at home. That means people who watched the debate at parties, bars, restaurants, and offices were not counted.
“The historic franchise’s numbers approached an all-time low, in fact, with the Saints-Falcons game notching a 5.7 overnight rating.”
The debate was seen live on 12 network channels, but NBC, which hosted the event and provided the moderator, won the night with 16.1 million viewers. That was followed by ABC, CBS, Fox (entertainment), Univision and Telemundo, according to CNN.
Fox News Channel beat all cable channels and was third overall, with 11.4 million viewers. It was followed by CNN with 9.8 million and MSNBC with 4.9 million.
The Hollywood Reporter says the overnight Nielsen ratings showed that the trajectory for broadcast viewership falls short of Super Bowl-like numbers, but those kinds of numbers may still be realized when all the streaming numbers are included from YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
One thing's for sure: Americans are extremely interested in what Clinton and Trump have to say — for better or worse.