Presidential debate could score Super Bowl-sized audience

Live, unscripted and unpredictable, the first 2016 U.S. presidential debate on Monday is expected to set new television audience records, with some commentators forecasting Super Bowl-sized viewership of around 100 million Americans.

The face-off between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in the New York City suburb of Hempstead will be carried across multiple U.S. broadcast and cable networks without commercial breaks for 90 minutes.

Political and media experts say the extraordinary nature of the campaign, featuring Trump, the outspoken N.Y. businessman and former reality TV star, vying for votes with Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state and first woman to run for the White House, is expected to break the record TV audience of 80 million for the 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, according to Nielsen.

“My prediction is a 100 million audience, and maybe more,” said Paul Levinson, a communications professor at New York’s Fordham University and author of “McLuhan in an Age of Social Media.”


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