If a major political party holds a televised convention and nobody tunes in to watch, does the resulting nomination actually count?
That may be a question worth asking in the wake of abysmal TV ratings for the first two nights of the Democratic National Convention, in which Joe Biden will be formally declared the party’s challenger to President Donald Trump, Breitbart reported.
According to Nielsen Media Research, viewership of the convention on the three major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — was down nearly 50% for the first two nights of events, though with the addition of viewers for the three major cable news channels — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — viewership overall was down around 25% from 2016 levels.
Dems’ convention ratings plummet
The Hill reported that the Nielsen numbers showed the second night of the Democratic convention, on Tuesday, only drew about 6.18 million viewers combined between the broadcast networks, down 48% from the viewership of the second night of the Democratic convention in 2016.
That is actually worse ratings-wise than the first night of the convention on Monday, during which viewership was down roughly 42% from the same night four years ago.
The addition of the cable news ratings to the broadcast numbers makes things a little bit better for Democrats, yet even still they were off by about a quarter percentage-wise in terms of viewers.
Altogether, the broadcast and cable networks drew approximately 18.6 million viewers combined on Monday night, down 27% from the first night of the 2016 convention.
Nielsen even reported a dropoff from Monday to Tuesday, with a combined TV viewership of 18.2 million for the second night of the convention, which was 24% lower than the equivalent night in 2016.
Spinning the numbers
Of course, Democrats and the Biden campaign are attempting to spin those dismal ratings by suggesting that digital viewership — people watching live streams and recordings online — more than made up for the difference in TV viewership alone, as The Hill notes.
T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a tweet on Tuesday that the addition of digital views to TV views equaled about 28.9 million Americans who tuned in to watch some or all of the convention events on the first night, which he claimed was higher overall than in 2016 and “shattered” previous digital stream viewership records.
“We are producing a digital convention, and people are watching,” he tweeted, according to The Hill.
Left unspecified in all of this is a breakdown of how many people were watching the convention in support of the Democrats versus how many were watching purely out of morbid curiosity to see how truly cringe-worthy it would be.