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Final night of Democratic National Convention draws 24.6 million TV viewers

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks on the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks from Wilmington, Del., on the closing night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

The final night of the Democratic National Convention averaged 24.6 million viewers, its largest audience of the week, as Joe Biden accepted his party’s nomination for president.

TV viewing of Biden’s speech, delivered from Wilmington, Del., fell 17% short of the 29.8 million who watched Hillary Clinton’s address when she was nominated in 2016.

MSNBC had the largest audience with 6.1 million viewers from 10 to 11:30 p.m. Eastern, followed by CNN (5.5 million), ABC (2.97 million), Fox News (2.95 million), NBC (2.15 million). CBS (1.98 million), Univision (1 million), Telemundo (755,000) and CNN Español (36,000), according to Nielsen data.

The total also includes the audience watching on PBS, Fox Business and Newsy.

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The four nights of coverage averaged 21.6 million viewers, 18% below the audience of 26.2 million for the Democrats in 2016.

It’s likely that more younger viewers watched the proceedings on streaming platforms such as Facebook and YouTube and the streaming channels offered by the networks. Usage of traditional TV among viewers under age 50 has declined substantially since 2016.

CNN said its live streaming audience for the fourth night of the convention was up 18% over 2016, with an average of 70,000 users watching from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern. The Biden campaign said there were 35 million video streams of the convention over four days across various platforms.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered the look of the convention, which was originally scheduled to be held at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. Some portions did broadcast from the Wisconsin Center, but there were no live audiences. All of the major speeches were delivered from remote locations.

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MSNBC had the largest audience for the week, a first for the NBCUniversal-owned channel in its 24-year history, averaging 5.8 million viewers over the four nights. MSNBC’s convention audience was up 27% compared with 2016, making it the only network to see an increase.

Friends say the 55-year-old entertainment lawyer, who attended college and law school in Southern California and lives in L.A.'s Brentwood, would “make an impact” should Biden and Harris win in November.

In recent years, CNN has been the most-watched network for Democratic convention coverage, while the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel dominates during the Republicans’ week. The GOP holds its 2020 convention, where it will renominate President Trump, next week.

But MSNBC’s courtship of progressive viewers in prime time likely made it a destination for devoted Democrats. The channel’s three opinion hosts, Rachel Maddow, Joy Reid and Nicolle Wallace, were featured prominently alongside anchor Brian Williams.

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CNN was still the most-watched network among viewers 25 to 54, the audience advertisers seek most when they buy commercial time on news programming.


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