Joe Biden‘s Thursday night town hall is currently leading Donald Trump‘s in the ratings battle. Despite NBC’s controversial decision to schedule a town hall with Trump opposite Biden’s previously scheduled town hall on ABC, it appears the former vice president still managed to bring in more viewers than the former host of The Apprentice.
Early viewership numbers, released Friday, show that Biden’s town hall drew 12.7 million total viewers on ABC, according to Variety, and averaged 12.3 million viewers across its entire runtime. Trump’s town hall on NBC was watched by 10.4 million viewers. Biden’s town hall also scored better in the key demographic of adults age 18-49. This story will be updated as more results come in.
The Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger were originally scheduled to face off in their second presidential debate on Thursday, but the event was canceled after Trump refused to participate in the virtual format despite concerns about his COVID-19 diagnosis.
In place of the debate, ABC arranged a town hall with Biden, moderated by George Stephanopoulos. NBC drew criticism after announcing its own town hall with Trump, moderated by Savannah Guthrie and scheduled to air at the same time as Biden’s. A lengthy list of stars signed an open letter saying the network was “enabling the president’s bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.” The celebrities who signed included the cast of NBC’s This Is Us, Mariska Hargitay, Aaron Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Allison Janney, and more.
In response, NBC released a statement defending the decision. “We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden,” said Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group. “Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations. We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8pm. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum.”