Some events don't live up to the hype. The Clinton-Trump debate wasn't one of those events.
As widely forecast, the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump, the Republican, broke all sorts of viewing records, a testament to how tight the race has become and to two personalities who were bound to clash.
Total viewers across a range of channels totaled about 84 million, according to Nielsen data. The Clinton-Trump match-up held at Hofstra University in New York exceeded the previous record of 80.6 million between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan set on October 28, 1980, hearkening back to a similarly partisan era when television had far fewer channels.
The showdown between the former New York senator and the former reality-TV star also topped the first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012, which generated 67.2 million viewers.
Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Report NBC led all networks with 18.2 million viewers as Lester Holt, weekday anchor of NBC Nightly News, moderated the debate. Disney's (DIS) - Get Report ABC came in second with 13.5 million viewers, followed by CBS's (CBS) - Get Report flagship network at 12.1 million.
Among cable-TV networks, 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) - Get Report Fox News Channel attracted 11.4 million viewers of the debate followed by Time Warner's (TWX) CNN at 9.8 million and MSNBC with 4.9 million, according to Nielsen Fast National data.
While Fox won with older viewers, CNN was tops among cable networks in the key demographics, winning among adults 25 to 54 with 4.4 million viewers compared to Fox News at 3.5 million. Similarly, CNN attracted nearly twice as many viewers 18 to 34 than the Fox News, 2.2 million to 1.1 million. CNN said its digital live stream reached 2.4 million viewers on CNN.com, CNNgo and other mobile apps.
Fox Business Network said it beat Comcast's CNBC among debate viewers, 532,000 to 407,000.