NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES • The first presidential debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drew 84 million US television viewers, a record for such an event and numbers rarely seen on TV in the age of digital streaming and social media.
The audience for the Monday night face-off beat the 1980 record of 80.6 million set by the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan presidential debate, when viewers had far fewer entertainment options.
But it fell short of the 100 million viewers some analysts had predicted. The estimated ratings figure from Nielsen included people who watched the raucous encounter across 13 US cable and broadcast networks and public television station PBS.
The TV figures did not include millions of people who watched the debate online through Twitter, Facebook and other social media, including in large groups in bars and restaurants.
The National Football League's annual Super Bowl attracts more than 100 million viewers, making it the biggest US television event.
Monday's debate was the first of three between Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump before the Nov 8 election. The other two are set for Oct 9 and Oct 19.
Fox News Channel grabbed the biggest cable audience with an average 11.4 million viewers, early Nielsen data showed. NBC, whose Nightly News anchor Lester Holt moderated the contentious exchanges about race, the economy and national security, was first overall with an estimated audience of 18.2 million.
Ad rates were far higher than for typical news programming. CNN charged more than US$55,000 (S$74,800) for 30-second ad spots as part of packages ranging from US$800,000 to US$1 million that included future debates and election night, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
CBS charged between US$200,000 and US$225,000, according to another source.