The DNC's Ratings Enter Dumpster Fire Territory

Democratic National Convention via AP
AP featured image
In this image from video, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, speaks after the roll call vote during the second night of the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)


The ratings for the first two nights of the DNC are in and they aren’t very good. Compared to four years ago, total viewership among the broadcast networks is down 42%. Even among the hardcore audience of the cable news networks, the Democrats are running at a 16% deficit compared to 2016.

Newsbusters delivered all the numbers this morning.

The broadcast networks suffered the biggest drops:  ABC, CBS and NBC combined for about 6.7 million viewers at 10 p.m., off by 42 percent from the 11.6 million who tuned in four years ago. ABC led the trio with 2.44 million viewers, followed by NBC (2.28 million) and CBS (1.99 million).

Cable news made up some of the difference, with MSNBC leading the 10 p.m. ET hour with 5.1 million viewers. CNN averaged 4.78 million and Fox News 2.1 million. The combined 11.98 million viewers was off by 16 percent from 2016.

The 10PM hour is the “prime time” hour at the convention. That’s why Michelle Obama spoke and why you see CNN leading the ratings there. Whatever liberals did tune in, that’s the time they mostly did so. The bigger surprise is that all the broadcast networks combined for only 6.7M viewers, which puts them only marginally above a regular broadcast of Tucker Carlson’s show.


Some excuses are being offered up for the precipitous decline. Chief among them is that people aren’t watching TV in a linear fashion anymore. I’m not sure that washes when a run of the mill Trump speech can still pull in millions of viewers. It also doesn’t wash when reruns of sitcoms are beating out speeches by top Democrats. This is the DNC, not some nominal event you can hand wave away as not a big deal.

Of course, would you want to watch what they are putting out? I sure don’t, though my job forces me to pay attention, at least to some extent. The speeches have been mostly boring and predictable. Lots of calls for “empathy” and no real policy proposals at all. It’s just a repeat of the same orange man bad screed of the last five years. Even Michelle Obama’s much praised presentation was simply a manipulative, dishonest spectacle, with more false statements and misleading tropes than one should be expected to keep up with.

Whether any of this is indicative of low enthusiasm going into November for the Democrats is an open question. We’ll need to see the RNC and how it performs to get something to compare it to. If the RNC does beat out the DNC, it would be another piece of evidence that things aren’t always what they seem. It’ll also be interesting to see if all these “news” networks give the same amount of airtime to the RNC.


Regardless, there’s no doubt Joe Biden’s campaign is lacking excitement and draw. It’s really only a matter of whether anti-Trump sentiment carries enough people to polls to push him over the top, because Biden himself isn’t getting them there.

(Please follow me on Twitter!!! @bonchieredstate)


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