President Donald Trump and Joe Biden at a town hall-style gathering on Thursday. (New York Times)
Joe Biden was out of the U.S. President Donald Trump’s ratings-only for rival city hall activities on Thursday, but the incumbent could be way ahead as cable figures hit later on Friday.
According to early results from Nielsen, the Democratic candidate attracted 12.2 million subscribers to ABC. Trump drew 10.4 million NBC audiences. The figures would be subject to changes later on Friday that could significantly raise the overall number of NBCs, including the inclusion of cable channel viewers operated by the parent corporation Comcast Corp.
The rare TV duel incidents happened after Trump declined to partake in a simulated debate planned for the same date in Miami. The Non-Party Committee on Presidential Debates recommended a simulated match after Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co., has arranged Democratic Biden to air on its own, while NBC has made a similar commitment to Trump.
NBC has been blamed by media analysts and some of its own staff for organizing its rival event. More than 100 actors and producers sent a letter to the network administration calling it “bad service.”
Yet network moderator Savannah Guthrie was lauded for asking difficult questions and reading at her responses. This may have prevented NBC from taking its timing decision, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
After Trump defended the retweet of the conspiracy theory that Biden ordered the murder of Navy SEALs to cover up Osama Bin Laden’s “false” death, she said, “You’re the president. You’re not the insane uncle of anyone who can never retweet everything.
At the rally on Thursday, Trump blamed NBC and its parent Comcast, but said he nevertheless wanted to run in the mayoralty because it would be “one hour of free programming.”
The overall viewership on both networks is expected to be just below the 73.1 million people who listened to the debate between Trump and Biden last month. The vice-presidential debate between current Mike Pence and candidate Kamala Harris has gained 57.9 million viewers, the biggest broadcast in a dozen years.
The town halls have turned out to be a modest audience. Earlier this month, the Biden event attracted 6.7 million viewers to NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. Last month, ABC hosted Trump’s Town Hall, which gathered about 4 million viewers, and a CNN broadcast with Biden gathered 3.3 million viewers.
Conversations with the candidates started on Thursday at 8 p.m. New York Times, Trump for an hour, and Biden for another 90 minutes. The President’s cumulative viewership is expected to improve later today when the ratings of NBC-owned cable networks are released. Comcast broadcasts the Trump case concurrently on its MSNBC and CNBC networks.