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First night of 2020 DNC TV ratings down 25% from 2016

Aug 18, 2020, 4:05 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2023, 11:56 am
DNC ratings...
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 17: The control room where live feeds are managed is in operation for the first night of the virtual DNC convention at the Wisconsin Center on August 17, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The convention, which was once expected to draw 50,000 people to the city, is now taking place virtually due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Television ratings of the first virtual Democratic National Convention (DNC) was down about 25% from the equivalent night in 2016, but Democratic officials said digital tune-in was up, reflecting a years-long shift in viewing media habits.

Overall the television and digital data for Monday night of the Democratic National Convention showed that the two-hour event reached a broad audience but wasn’t a breakout success.

According to Nielsen the six biggest TV networks averaged a combined total of 19 million viewers during the 10 p.m. hour, which was the only hour that NBC, ABC and CBS showed live.

The same six networks had almost 25 million viewers combined during the first night of the DNC in 2016.

The two highest-rated channels were MSNBC, with nearly 5.2 million viewers in the 10 p.m. hour, and CNN, with 4.8 million.

Fox News, which is typically No. 1 in prime time, averaged far fewer viewers at 10 p.m., about 2.1 million, which reflects its core conservative audience’s disdain for Democrats like Michelle Obama, who delivered Monday’s keynote.

The differences with this year’s convention are innumerable — in 2016, there was a physical convention location and days of live TV coverage from the host city, which tends to stoke interest in the event.

On the other hand, the pandemic and the Democratic party’s fierce opposition to President Trump were factors that could have helped overall viewership this year.

The Nielsen data only counts traditional TV. Streaming services are increasingly cutting into TV viewership and providing people with more ways to consume big events.

Joe Biden’s campaign said the convention speeches and videos were live-streamed by 15 different platforms, including YouTube and Twitter. Speakers like such as Michelle Obama shared their remarks on their own social media accounts, as well.

Biden national press secretary TJ Ducklo said at least 10.2 million people watched live internet streams of the convention on Monday night.

The online viewership is not directly comparable to television, since the data is measured differently, but Ducklo said the 2020 streaming numbers “shattered” the 2016 numbers.

“We are producing a digital convention, and people are watching,” Ducklo said.

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First night of 2020 DNC TV ratings down 25% from 2016