Ratings For Day One Of Democratic Convention Not Much Better Then Republican Convention

The initial ratings for the the first night of the Democratic National Convention don’t appear to be much better than the first night of last week’s Republican Convention:

MSNBC was the #1 cable news channel last night in primetime. We’re checking records, but it may be the first time in the network’s 16 years of existence it has ever won a night. With coverage from the first night of the DNC, MSNBC averaged 3.298 million total viewers and 1.067 million demo viewers, ahead of CNN (3.003M / 1.002M) and Fox News (2.515M / 554K).

Compared to night one of the 2008 DNC, MSNBC was up +53% in total viewers in primetime while CNN was down -23% and Fox News was down -17%

In the 10pm hour, NBC led the way followed by MSNBC, which drew a combined 9.1 million viewers. MSNBC was the only network to grow vs. 2008, with NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and FNC down.

The drop off for the broadcast networks was actually quite severe:

With Obama’s speech the big ticket on Day 1, it was NBC that won the night as it did last week at the RNC. The network earned a 1.3/4 rating, down 24% from 2008. ABC had a 0.7/2, down 36% from four years ago. And with a 0.6/2, CBS took the biggest hit, with its coverage down 45% from the comparative night in 2008.

Here are the numbers for the all-important 10pm hour:

  • 10pm, Sept. 4, 2012. Night one of the DNC:

NBC: 5,021,551 viewers (1,929,345 in A25-54)
MSNBC: 4,106,622 viewers (1,431,929 in A25-54)
CNN: 3,887,789 viewers (1,367,998 in A25-54)
ABC: 3,236,553 viewers (1,142,927 in A25-54)
CBS: 3,268,520 viewers (1,056,844 in A25-54)
FNC: 2,397,710 viewers (550,149 in 25-54)

Time’s James Poniewozik raises some questions:

How many people are watching both conventions? I suppose it’s possible millions of voters decided Fox was the best place to watch the Republicans and MSNBC the best place to watch the Democrats. But it may also be that millions and millions of voters are watching only the party they already identify with. Which leads to the question…

Who are TV conventions for anymore? The mythical interested-but-undecided swing voters—do they still exist, and do they watch politics on TV? Are there people out there who haven’t picked a candidate, and are choosing to watch two weeks of conventions to make a reasoned decision based on the two parties’ best arguments? Or is it mostly confirmed politics junkies, just waiting to cheer for the zingers and hear how their own side plans on campaigning to the actual undecided voters?

That’s a good question, especially since more people watched some reality show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Thursday night than watched the final night of the Republican Convention. [See Update below] Total viewership last night was approximately 22 million households, about 7% more than the first night of the Republican convention. I expect we’ll see the ratings glut continue tonight given the NFL game, and then pick up slightly on Thursday as they did for the Romney speech at the RNC. At the very least, though, it seems clear that voters are beginning to ignore these conventions.

Update: As noted by EddieInCA in the comments, I misread what The Hollywood Reporter said regarding Thursday night’s ratings. What was reported is that more people watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo than watched any single network’s broadcast of the convention. And if you don’t know what Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is, consider yourself very lucky.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Entertainment, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. SKI says:

    I wonder how many are, like me, watching on c-span to avoid the talking head idiots.

  2. mantis says:

    At the very least, though, it seems clear that voters are beginning to ignore these conventions.

    Or watch them differently, or both. I suspect both. I’m not bothering to watch either convention. I’ll catch a few good bits on the web, but largely I find them unnecessary. I have plenty of info about the parties and the candidates already. I suspect so do many others. And I am a political junkie. I just don’t like political theater very much.

    You’re going to find that traditional TV viewership for a great many things will continue to decline because some people are streaming them live, watching them afterwards, or just watching clips on the web. This is especially true of events that happen or are only covered late at night.

  3. MBunge says:

    My math may be off, but it appears that the 1st night of the DNC got over 5% more viewers than the first night of the RNC. Not great, but nothing to sneeze at.

    It’s also fascinating to look at the difference in viewing pattern with FOX dominating the RNC watching then sharply dropping off for the DNC, only to see every other network increase their audience.


  4. Anderson says:

    I don’t watch infomercials, including week-long political infomercials.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    The conventions are now drama-free paid political advertisements, and as such are hard to watch. I’ve said before – the 1968 Democratic Convention, now THAT was a real convention.

    To be sure, I cherry-pick my viewing of the conventions. For the GOP Convention I watched Rubio, Eastwood, and (Mitt) Romney. So far, for the Democratic Convention, I’ve only watched Castro,

    In neither case was I the least bit interested in hearing speeches by the First Ladies – it’s a lot of empty calories, what do you expect them to say? To me, a waste of time, I could be watching a ballgame instead.

    In both cases I caught highlights of the other speakers and notables later.

  6. PJ says:

    How many watched the RNC convention online and how many watched the DNC convention online?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    WTF is a Honey Boo Boo?

    You know what? Nevermind. I don’t want to know. I’m sure my life will be better not knowing.

  8. Vast Variety says:

    Reality TV makes me weep for the future of the human race.

  9. Scott says:

    I watched on PBS. I’m surprised that is not measured.

  10. A says:

    The Honey Boo Boo thing is not technically true. More people watched it then any one channel of the RNC. More people in total were watching the RNC.

  11. Herb says:

    Insecure much? Sheesh……

  12. EddieInCA says:

    Doug –

    You need to correct your post.

    I’m in the television business, and your sentence… That’s a good question, especially since more people watched some reality show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on Thursday night than watched the final night of the Republican Convention.… isn’t anywhere near correct.

    What the Hollywood Reporter is reporting is that “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” beat any individual network showing the convention, not that the reality show veiwership topped the RNC viewership.

    “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” didn’t even make the top 25 of cable shows for the week, but Fox News Channel certainly did – their coverage of the RNC to be specific.


  13. EddieInCA says:

    Doug, Dr. Joyner, Dr. Taylor –

    My comment got caught by the spam filter. I think a link that is too long is probably the reason why.

    Please check.

    Thank you.

  14. @EddieInCA:

    Comment retrieved. Not sure why it ended up in the spam filter.

    In any case, you are correct, I misread the THR report and have posted an update to clarify the matter.

  15. anjin-san says:

    Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is part of Obama’s secret plan to end American greatness…