WASHINGTON, September 26, 2016 – NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015 (Patriots vs Seahawks) is the single most watched American television broadcast in history, seen by an average of 114.4 million viewers, and peaking to 120.8 million during New England’s fourth quarter comeback.
If you’re older than a millennial, you might remember watching the previous record holder on CBS on February 28, 1983.
That final episode of of the series “M*A*S*H” reached 105 million viewers, gaining notoriety for increasing water flow in New York City by 300 million gallons when the episode ended. Whether that was people rushing to the facilities following the two-hour-thirty-minute broadcast, as star Loretta Swift has said, or those seeking relief from the emotional turmoil, we do not know.
The May 1993 finale episode of “Cheers” reached 84.4 million viewers. While viewership numbers might change depending on who’s counting (we use Nielsen ratings), these three events caught America’s attention.
Monday night’s presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from Hofstra University is expected to earn the distinction of “most watched” political broadcast in American TV history as people tune into the ABC television broadcast and numerous live streams online for the first of three general election presidential debates. NBC News anchor Lester Holt will moderate.
The question is will it be the most watched overall?
Donald Trump did attract more viewers (32.2 million) to his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention than Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech viewership (29.8 million). Looking to a bit of historical perspective, the first two debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012 averaged about 66.4 million viewers across ABC, CNN, CBS, C-SPAN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, PBS, Univision and others.
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