About 57.9 million people tuned in to watch Wednesday night's vice presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence on television, according to ratings data from Nielsen.
Ratings were up sharply from the 2016 debate, which drew 37.2 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched vice presidential debate. The 2008 debate between Sarah Palin, then the governor of Alaska, and Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware, set a record with nearly 70 million viewers.
The increase in viewership from 2016 is notable because ratings for this year's Republican and Democratic conventions dropped from previous years. Television viewership for the first presidential debate between Biden and President Donald Trump also dropped compared to 2016's first debate.
Viewership was measured across 18 networks that carried the debate live on television. Nielsen's figures don't include viewership on digital platforms like YouTube or subscription streaming services like Hulu or NBC's Peacock.
Wednesday night's debate drew mixed reviews, but one moment in particular went viral. A fly landed on Pence's head and stayed there for about two minutes, sparking commentary and analysis on multiple broadcast and cable news channels.
The 2020 viewership numbers exceeded the average for vice presidential debates, which is 40 million to 50 million, according to Nielsen data.
Since 1976, the first time a formal vice presidential debate was held, only two others have surpassed 55 million viewers. In 1984, the debate between Rep. Geraldine Ferraro and Vice President George H.W. Bush had 56.7 million viewers.