Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why TV Ratings in Trump-Clinton Debate Could Reach Super Bowl Levels

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why TV Ratings in Trump-Clinton Debate Could Reach Super Bowl Levels

Article excerpt

The first on-air showdown between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sept. 26 is predicted by experts to bring in as many as 100 million television viewers - reaching almost as many people as the Super Bowl.

It's unusual for presidential debates to receive as much attention. But does more American interest in presidential debates signal increased political engagement - or does it reflect attraction to the spectacle of this year's unusual elections?

According to The Hill, the 2012 presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney averaged 66.4 million viewers across major broadcast and cable outlets. In contrast, the 2015 Super Bowl had 111.9 million viewers, which rose to 118.5 million during pop star Katy Perry's performance at halftime.

This makes the debate an unexpected competitor for ad dollars with ESPN's Monday Night Football. The Wall Street Journal reports that the football ratings are expected to drop 15 to 20 percent from last year's average because of the debate.

"[Ratings will be up with] so many people still on the fence about who to vote for and the bitterness and nasty-fighting between the two," Billie Gold, vice president and director of programming for the research arm at Dentsu Inc. told The Wall Street Journal, stating that the tension makes for great TV.

To be fair, the first presidential debate is crucial for the two candidates who are neck-to-neck in the latest polls. It will be the first time Trump is debating a Democratic candidate, and the theme on economics and security are especially relevant with Americans who are concerned about the recent attempted bombings in New York and New Jersey.

But on the other hand, many have pointed to Trump's role in attracting larger audiences to the primary debates held over the past year.

CNN Money calls it the "Donald Trump ratings bump." Trump has helped Fox News shatter its viewership records, especially when he clashed with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly last August. That debate attracted 24 million viewers. Trump's presence boosts viewership - the debate he refused to attend garnered 12. …

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