Early ratings returns show that Monday's presidential debate was the most watched in American history, averaging more than 80.9 million viewers.
Network television saw a 23 percent jump in viewers compared to 2012, when the first debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney drew 67 million viewers, the returns show.
An estimated average of 80.9 million viewers tuned in across 12 of the channels broadcasting the debate live, CNN reported. The numbers don't include viewers who watched on PBS and C-SPAN. Those figures were to be released later Tuesday. Millions also live streamed the debate online. So the actual total audience would be significantly higher than 80 million, according to CNN.
The previous highest viewership record was set in 1980, when 81 million viewers watched President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in their sole debate that year.
NBC, whose "Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt was the debate moderator, led the ratings with 16.6 million viewers, followed by ABC, CBS and Fox.
Twitter reported Monday that the debate was the most-tweeted in history.
- The vice presidential debate between Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will take place next Tuesday at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. It will be moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBS News.
- The second presidential debate is at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, moderated by ABC's Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper.
- The final presidential debate is on Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace.