By Will Thorne | Variety
Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump appeared in directly competing town halls on Thursday night, after the President dropped out of the second debate.
Trump’s hourlong appearance on NBC, which drew criticism across the industry and even an angry letter from top talent and showrunners who work with NBCU, appears to be trailing Biden’s 90-minute session with ABC in the ratings, at least according to early numbers.
Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers on the Disney-owned network, while Trump drew 10.4 million in the same 9-10 p.m. time slot on NBC. Across the entire runtime, the Biden town hall averaged 12.3 million viewers. In terms of the fast national 18-49 demographic, Biden is comfortably on top with a 2.6 rating to Trump’s 1.7.
Those numbers are of course subject to significant adjustment given that the Trump town hall aired simultaneously on NBC, its broadcast affiliates, cable channels CNBC and MSNBC, and Telemundo. Whereas Biden’s event aired live on ABC on both coasts, meaning his viewership figure will be affected by time zone adjustments. This story will be updated with more accurate figures, including the cable numbers, once they become available later in the day.
There were already some signs last night that the Biden session might prove more popular, as the ABC telecast accrued more viewers than its rival on the live YouTube stream.
The Trump affair saw “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie grill the President on his tax returns and his response to the coronavirus pandemic, Guthrie also asked him to directly disavow white supremacy and QAnon, the online conspiracy theory about a pedophile cult which Trump retweeted.
“You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle that can just retweet whatever,” Guthrie commented at one point during the town hall.
Over on ABC, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed Biden on issues including the Supreme Court, racial justice, income inequality, infrastructure and police reform.
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