The Hill reports:
The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promises to be the most watched ever, with an audience that could exceed 100 million people, according to experts interviewed by The Hill.
A debate with an audience that size would be something never seen before in U.S. politics and would be a figure close to what the Super Bowl gets.
The figure would be even more remarkable in an era in which Americans have countless cable and streaming options.
The 1983 finale of “M*A*S*H” is the only television show that has hit the 100 million mark. Last year’s Super Bowl in which the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers attracted 111.9 viewers, and pop star Katy Perry’s performance at the 2015 Super Bowl had 118.5 million viewers.
In 2012, the first two presidential debates between President Obama and Mitt Romney averaged 66.4 million viewers across broadcast and cable outlets CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, C-SPAN, Univision and others.
Monday's debate, hosted by NBC News anchor Lester Holt from Hofstra University in New York, will be carried by all of the broadcast networks, the cable news networks, Univision, PBS and a number of streaming options.
The game begins on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, a half-hour before the debate is scheduled to begin. “Monday Night Football” averaged 12.9 million viewers per week during the 2015 season.
While the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons will enter the game with a combined record of 1-3, football tends to defeat all comers when it comes to television ratings and is likely to take a chunk of the viewership.
“In 'Monday Night Football' versus Trump and Hillary, everybody loses," says Dave Briggs, a former Fox News host who jumped over to NBC Sports in 2013 as a studio host.
“Bare minimum, even a seemingly regional NFL game between Atlanta and New Orleans will draw 10–12 million viewers. The debates will win the night but never pull away many of those 10 million Falcons, Saints and, most importantly, fantasy football fans,” he said...
Chad Wilkinson, a former cable news executive producer who is now president of Liberty Media Strategies, believes the NFL will make it impossible for Trump and Clinton to get 100 million, or even 80 million viewers.
“We are looking at massive viewing numbers for the first presidential debate but because of 'Monday Night Football' on ESPN, we won't see a record,” he said.
Wilkinson still puts his final prediction above Romney and Obama first debate in 2012, at 73 million to 75 million viewers.