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Biden's town hall ratings top Trump's: Nielsen Data

Yahoo Finance's Alexandra Canal joins Akiko Fujita to compare the ratings on Trump and Biden's Thursday night town hall events.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, no presidential debate yesterday as planned. But we saw millions of Americans tune into dueling town halls with the president on NBC, the former vice president on ABC. And now we have the ratings breakdown. Alexandra Canal is here to break that down for us.

And Ali, there's so much attention on this in terms of the ratings breakdown because the president made it pretty clear, he wants to beat Joe Biden on ratings as well. And but the numbers don't seem to point to that. What do we know now about how many people actually tuned in?

ALEXANDRA CANAL: Exactly. President Trump loves touting those Nielsen ratings, even back to his "Apprentice" days. He always loved boasting about the ratings that he has. But last night, in a surprising twist, Joe Biden overtook Trump for the town hall yesterday. Joe Biden was hosting his town hall on ABC, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, while President Trump was on NBC with Savannah Guthrie.

Now President Trump, this was simultaneously broadcasted on NBC, CNBC, MSNBC. And despite those multiple networks, Joe Biden, the sole network of ABC, still came out on top here.

So let's dig into these numbers. Joe Biden's town hall averaged 13.9 million viewers last night, easily surpassing the Nielsen ratings for President Trump, which came in at around 13 million. And as I said, very impressive, considering the president was on multiple networks.

Now this does come after quite a bit of controversy surrounding NBC'S decision to host this town hall for the president. Yesterday, we saw over 100 stars, writers, producers, show runners, write a letter to NBC executives, accusing them of threatening our very democracy with this decision. Because the controversy was that the president's town hall was going to interfere with Joe Biden's town hall at the same exact time.

But NBC stuck with the decision. They said this was the only fair way that they really saw. Because last week, they did host a town hall with Joe Biden at that 8:00 PM timeslot. And they wanted to keep that timeslot the same so that there was opportunity for all of those viewers to tune in at that exact time frame.

But it wasn't just Hollywood that was upset here. We also saw on TikTok that some TikTok stars, TikTok users, were trying to derail Trump's ratings. There was a fireball challenge where they were encouraging all of their fans to go ahead and put Joe Biden's event, stream that on all your different devices. Although I do want to point out that Nielsen does not take into account any streaming services so it's unlikely that this would make any much of a big difference here.

But TikTok has certainly been a big thorn on the side of the president. Remember back in June, there was a viral challenge about TikTok users going ahead and purchasing tickets to President Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma and then not showing up. And it appears like that event worked out because only 19,000 attended the event, even though nearly one million tickets were sold here.

Now, the next time that we are going to see Joe Biden and President Trump go head to head will be next week. That will be the final presidential debate on October 22 in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm personally very curious to see what the demeanor is going to be. But as we've seen through this entire election season, it's very different than 2016.

If you remember the town hall between Hillary Clinton and President Trump, it was very dynamic. There was a lot of action. President Trump was following Hillary around, a lot of memeable moments. And because of this pandemic, we were not able to see the would-be dynamic between Joe Biden and the president. So next week should certainly be interesting. But for now, there seems to be a lot of interest surrounding Joe Biden's performance here.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, Ali, it's interesting how well both of them did, especially considering how much was on TV, right? I had two screens up. I was trying to watch the baseball playoffs, too. There were other shows that were on as well. I mean, how do they compare to some of the other shows that were on or some of the other sports that were sort of playing out at the same time?

ALEXANDRA CANAL: Yeah, I mean, we're still getting this data. And we just got those final results. But 13 million for a town hall is pretty significant. I've seen some of the previous town halls that were airing last week only averaged around 3.5 million. So it seems like there was a ton of interest, particularly for last night's town halls. And that could have been stemming from all the controversy that NBC had throughout this. So it probably piqued the interest of a lot of people.

But yeah, there was a lot of TV on this week. Tuesday, the premiere of "The Bachelorette," that came in at over 4 million. I was wondering if that was going to be higher than these town halls. But, as you said, very successful for both President Trump and Joe Biden. And it makes me that much more curious to see what is going to play out next week.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, it shows you just how much attention is being placed on these elections. And we're very close to that November 3 date as well. So certainly, we'll be watching the ratings for next week as well. Thanks so much for that, Ali.