Steve August 18, 2020

The first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention drew about 18.7 million Americans on television, a significant drop-off from four years ago, according to data released Tuesday by measurement firm Nielsen and reported by Associated Press.

The virtual convention, lacking the real-world buzz of typical events, kicked off Monday with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former first lady Michelle Obama as the headliners. It included a combination of taped and live events, all of it done remotely. Parts of the convention were carried on the major broadcast networks, and most of it was shown on cable news channels.

But the total audience fell below the 26 million people that watched the first night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention — a 28 percent decline.

That drop-off may have been eased by a growing digital audience that has embraced watching events over the internet. TJ Ducklo, national press secretary for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, tweeted Tuesday that the event drew a total of 28.9 million Americans, with 10.2 million internet streams of the event making up for the TV drop-off.

Previous Democratic events have not shown a similar TV decline. The Democratic Presidential debates produced strong ratings, including a record viewership for the Las Vegas debate.

MSNBC announced in a press release that it led all broadcast and cable channels in total viewers for the primetime hours of Monday night’s convention with 4.3 million viewers between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET. CNN attracted 4.1 million viewers, and Fox News drew 3.4 million.

MSNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

Image: Jason AbbruzzeseJason Abbruzzese

Jason Abbruzzese is the senior editor for technology news at NBC News Digital.

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