Ratings fall sharply for second debate

Viewership of Sunday night's presidential debate fell sharply, with 66.5 million viewers tuning in — a more than a 21 percent drop from the 84 million who watched the first showdown between Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump warns Iran's Rouhani: Threaten us 'and you will suffer' Pompeo: Iran's leaders resemble the mafia NYT's Haberman: Trump 'often tells the truth' MORE and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page warrant reflects attack on our civil liberties Former Obama aide to Comey: 'No one is asking for your advice' Comey to Dems: 'Don't lose your minds and rush to the socialist left' MORE at the end of September. 

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Sunday’s 66.5 million is slightly more than what President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney drew for their second debate back in 2012, which was seen by 65.5 million. 

One big factor: sports. Because the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to hold the debate on a Sunday night, NBC — which drew the biggest audience for the first debate on Sept. 26 — was not part of the broadcast pool due to its obligation to air the NFL's “Sunday Night Football.” 

Major League Baseball also featured a Sunday night playoff game on TBS.

Another factor: Second debates generally register lower numbers than the first. 

In the ratings race overall, CBS benefited from NBC’s coverage of the New York Giants at the Green Bay Packers, with a broadcast-best 16.5 million viewers. 

ABC was second, with 11.5 million. 

On the cable side, CNN was the big winner, with 11.3 million viewers. The network also won in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic advertisers covet most, with 4.85 million viewers in the category. The 11.3 million tuning in to CNN makes this the most-watched general election debate in network history. 

Fox News finished second, with 9.9 million total viewers and 2.9 million in the demographic. MSNBC was third in both categories, with 5.54 million viewers and 1.76 million in the demographic. 

Fox Business edged CNBC on the cable business front, with 565,000 total viewers. CNBC, however, topped Fox Business in the demographic, 187,000 to 147,000.

The third and final presidential debate of 2016 will take place Oct. 19 in Las Vegas. Chris Wallace of Fox News will be the moderator.