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Football or Clinton vs. Trump? It was no contest

So much for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s complaint weeks ago that a debate opposite a prime-time National Football League would reduce the audience for his first encounter with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

After his much-maligned performance Monday, Trump most likely would have benefited if more people watched Atlanta’s victory over New Orleans on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

The debate had a Super Bowl-like combined local rating on 10 channels of 48.3 from 9 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. It was about 20 percent higher than the local rating for the first 2012 debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

By comparison, Denver’s victory over Carolina in the 2016 Super Bowl had a local rating of 55.7 on WIVB-TV. However, that was the highest-ever rating for the Super Bowl in Western New York, with the game typically receiving a rating in the low 50s in recent years.

The debate rating was about seven times higher locally than the game. It had a 6.9 rating for the entire game and a 6.5 rating when it competed against the debate.

Each rating point in Western New York represents about 6,000 households, which means about 288,000 households were tuned in to the debate. Nationally, 84 million television viewers made it the highest-viewed presidential debate in history and millions more watched online.

Trump arguably had his best moments in the first 30 minutes of the debate when trade policies were being discussed. His advisers undoubtedly hoped that viewers left after that rather than see his meltdown during the next hour.

But if Western New York is any indication, viewership was steady. The combined local rating at the 9 p.m. start was a Super Bowl-like 52.0. It remained at 51.7 until 9:45 p.m. and was 47.6 at 10 p.m. before finishing with a 42.4.

The NFL game opposite the second debate may pose a bigger distraction and reduce the audience more when Trump needs a recovery. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” (Channel 2) is carrying the Oct. 9 game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants opposite the debate. However, the debate should be over by about 10:30 p.m. so football fans have the option of skipping the first half and watching the second half when the game is decided after the debate ends. There also is a 15- to 20-minute halftime window to catch the debate.


Trump claimed after the first debate ended that online polls declared him the winner. Many analysts begged to differ, proclaiming Clinton the decisive winner at the same time they doubted it would hurt Trump with his base.

Anyone who watched last week’s “Frontline” biography of the nominees, “The Choice 2016,” saw that declaring victory when you lose is in keeping with a Trump strategy explained by Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of a Trump book who has become one of his sharpest critics.

Trump used unscientific online polls typically stuffed by more enthusiastic supporters of a nominee to declare victory even though they really mean next to nothing. Unfortunately, the network newscasts carried clips of his victory claim and didn’t always balance it by explaining those polls were unscientific. I’m not sure all viewers get the distinction between scientific and non-scientific polls.

The scientific polls showed Clinton as the decisive victor. One of the best ways to determine who actually won is to listen to a nominee’s supporters spin the loss.

I turned on Tom Bauerle’s WBEN-AM radio show Tuesday briefly to hear the conservative talk show host’s spin. Bauerle called it a draw, a sure sign that Clinton won the debate by as wide a margin as a scientific CNN poll declared Monday night. Even more hilariously, Bauerle seemed to suggest Trump’s disappointing performance was done on purpose as part of a plan to recover during the second debate.

Clinton supporters most likely hope Trump really believes those unscientific polls so he won’t change his strategy on Oct. 9. But I imagine his advisers are trying to straighten him out.


While we are on the subject of politics, Republican State Senate candidate Chris Jacobs is running an ad in which he says two words are scaring politicians in Albany as footage of people pretending to be frightened politicians runs. The two words revealed at the end are “term limits.” I don’t think I’ve seen a local political ad as stupid as that one in years.


One of my favorite new programs, “This Is Us,” already has been given a full season order. NBC made the announcement before the second episode aired. The ratings here have been strong for a 10 p.m. Tuesday program. But it is scheduled to move to 9 p.m. Tuesday opposite the new CBS program “Bull” starring “NCIS” star Michael Weatherly, which has gotten almost twice the rating here for the first two episodes.


If you missed Stephen Colbert’s Sept. 23 interview with Bruce Springsteen on “The Late Show,” catch it On Demand. Springsteen isn’t exactly a comfortable talk show guest. But Colbert, who read Springsteen’s new book “Born to Run,” did a terrific job drawing him out. One highlight came when Springsteen noted his difficult relationship with his father, who never said much about the songs inspired by him until a brief conversation late in life. When Bruce asked his dad which songs he liked best, his dad responded: “The ones about me.”


Nice to see the return of sports host Kevin Sylvester to television as the co-host of a new Channel 2 program called “This Weekend” alongside Janet Snyder. The 30-minute live program airs at 11:30 a.m. Friday and sets up the local weekend entertainment options.


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