Earlier this week, The Daily Beast reported that President Trump had one thing on his mind heading into his Republican National Convention.
The president was telling his closest aides that he was determined to beat his rival Joe Biden in the TV ratings. He was requesting daily ratings for the Democratic National Convention and insisted that his RNC spectacle would demolish their “pathetic” numbers, according to a senior administration official.
In the end, apparently not even all of the unethical pomp and circumstance of a Trump-branded White House as the backdrop of his big speech Thursday night could draw more viewers than Biden’s solemnly rousing speech to an empty auditorium.
According to initial Nielsen numbers, President Trump’s speech Thursday night drew 14.1 million viewers across the three broadcast networks and three major cable news networks. That is more than three million fewer viewers than the 17.5 million who tuned in to watch Biden’s speech one week earlier.
When those numbers are expanded out across nine broadcast and cable networks, Biden still beat Trump by a fairly wide margin, 23.6 million to 21.6 million.
At 70 minutes, Trump spoke close to three times as long as Joe Biden, whose DNC speech clocked in at 24 and a half minutes. It was the second-longest convention speech in modern American history—after the 75-minute speech Trump delivered at the 2016 RNC.
Biden’s DNC beat Trump’s RNC across the board on all four nights, starting with former First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech on night one, which drew about 18.7 million viewers compared to 15.8 million for Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and others on the first night of the RNC. Night two was closer, but headliner Jill Biden still edged out First Lady Melania Trump, 18.6 million to 18 million.
On night three, Vice President Mike Pence not only lost viewers compared to the previous night but also came in far behind the Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris. While approximately 15.7 million viewers watched Pence, about 21.5 million viewers tuned in to Harris.
In fact, while the DNC’s ratings generally grew night by night over the course of the four-day convention last week, the RNC’s numbers appear to have stayed flat or even dropped as the week went on.
Also of note is the fact that Fox News has consistently accounted for close to half of all viewership for the RNC this week, with more people watching on Fox than all three broadcast networks combined on Wednesday. But Fox’s commentators were quick to pan Trump’s speech as “surprisingly flat” and “far too long” when he finally wrapped up Thursday night.
MSNBC was on top during the DNC, but viewership was more evenly distributed over the six major networks. Overall, ratings for both conventions were down significantly compared to 2016 when Trump out-rated Hillary Clinton’s speech, 32.2 million to 29.8 million.
None of this stopped Trump from tweeting Friday morning, “Great Ratings & Reviews Last Night. Thank you!”