US polls: TV channels, social media & streaming – all broke their own viewership records

MUMBAI: It's an example of how significant is television when it comes to national and international events. In what was one of the most surprising US election results in history, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. Tuesday was the most-watched night in the US in both CNN and Fox News’ histories.

Around 72 million Americans watched the poll results on broadcast or cable television during primetime, according to TV viewership agency Nielsen. This year's tight race has been good for ratings all fall, delivering an average audience of 74 million for the presidential debates, including a record-setting 84 million for Trump’s first faceoff with Hillary Clinton.

Considered by many poll and media pundits to have had no chance at victory, Trump’s message of political change and fighting for the masses resonated with more than 58 million Americans. It’s clear that the social media played a crucial part in Trump’s rise to power. The actual part that media played in the process will be debated for years, but it's interesting to look at the basic outline of what the new media landscape means for the electoral process and how it played out across the various platforms.

On the election night, The Young Turks - targeted at those who consume content on digital - broke records with 4.5 million views, according to Tubefilter. On 8 November, the news channel had a big night; across three separate live streams — on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter — it drew more than 4.5 million total hits, breaking its own viewership record.

The television number -- 72 million -- includes CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, Univision, Telemundo, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, CNN, Fox News, CNBC and TV One but does not include PBS. This number compares well with with a similar number of Americans who witnessed Barack Obama become the first African-American person elected as the president in 2008, according to Nielsen tally of 14 networks’ viewership.

Election night was an apt conclusion to a campaign that intrigued television viewers for over a year. Two of the three most-watched presidential debates in history were between Trump and Clinton. Trump’s proven value as a ratings-grabber led to cable networks giving what some critics regarded as an inordinate amount of attention to his appearances as his campaign was first catching on.

Excluding PBS, Nielsen’s final count for 2016 included viewership on Lifetime’s live “The View” special. The average audience for the 2012 election was 66.8 million when viewing across 13 networks was tallied by Nielsen.

All networks' coverage except Fox broadcasting continued into the small hours. The Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton did not concede to the Republican nominee until after 2am EST, and Trump did not gave his victory speech till 3am.

CNN had the biggest night of all the networks in primetime, drawing an average audience of 13.26 million from 8-11 pm EST. Fox News followed with 12.11 million total viewers. MSNBC came in third in the cable race with 5.95 million. The same pecking order followed in the coveted-by-news-advertisers 25-54 demographic: CNN had 6.66 million viewers in that demo, Fox News had 4.64 million, and MSNBC had 2.37 million.

In coverage from 7pm--3am, the numbers were slightly different. Fox News drew the biggest total audience in that time-frame, with 12.2 million viewers. CNN came in with an average audience of 11.17 million during that time, and MSNBC had an audience of 5.2 million. CNN did still lead in the 25-54 demo, though, with 5.65 million to Fox News’ 4.76 million. (MSNBC brought in 2.13 million viewers in the 25-54 demo in that period.)

However, viewers did begin tuning out after seeing several key swing states called, and by the time the 2 a.m. hour rolled around, viewership on the three big cable nets was at 19.1 million. Fox News had the most, with 9.78 million. CNN followed with 6.45 million, with MSNBC coming in at 2.86 million.

Another 38.67 million watched the election results come in on one of the broadcast networks. That number, from Nielsen’s final primetime ratings, includes ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox (from 8-10 p.m.), Univision and Telemundo. ABC had an average audience of 9.23 million viewers. CBS pulled in 8.09 million. Fox’s two hours of results coverage drew 4.28 million. NBC had the largest total audience, 11.15 million. Telemundo averaged 2.02 million.

These ratings don’t include viewers who streamed election night coverage.

Here’s how the broadcast networks’ election coverage ranked in total viewership:

CNN 13.26 million
Fox News 12.11 million
NBC 11.97 million
ABC 9.68 million
CBS 8.8 million
MSNBC 5.95 million
Fox 4.27 million
Univision 3.89 million
Telemundo 2.16 million
Fox Business Network 1.07 million
CNBC 319,000

Social media too was inundated on election night and through the campaign. According to available data, 75 million tweets were sent out on #electionnight up to the time Trump came and made his winning address - more than double the previous day stats of 31 million done in 2012. Overall, through the campaign since the primary debates began in August last year more than a billion election-related tweets were generated, according to social media today. Facebook traffic increased by 30 per cent during this period.

And lo and behold one fact that has emerged according to research from the University of Southern California is the use of bots on social media by the two camps, (though Trump used them more) according to Social Media Today. According to the research, millions of election-related tweets were posted by more than 400,000 social bots during the campaign. The USC research also found that many of these shared highly positive messages about either candidate, which may actually have influenced voter outcomes by creating “the false impression that there's grassroots, positive, sustained support for a certain candidate”. So while bot traffic no doubt contributed to the overall share of voice stats, it may actually have been beneficial, even if it was coming non-human operators.

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