President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney participate in the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, 2012. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
(USA TODAY) - In the battle for television viewers, President Obama and Mitt Romney beat out football and the decisive game of baseball's National League championships.
Round 3 of the Obama vs. Romney debates drew 59.2 million TV viewers on Monday, according to Nielsen, the ratings company. That's the smallest audience for the three presidential debates this year.
By comparison, 10.7 million people tuned in to ESPN as Obama's hometown Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Nielsen said 8.1 million people watched the San Francisco Giants defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to earn a World Series berth.
TV viewership for the presidential debates has declined over the years, as more people skip them completely or watch livestreaming on the Internet. A 1980 debate between President Carter and Ronald Reagan claimed the largest TV audience with 80.6 million viewers.
As for Obama vs. Romney, their first skirmish on Oct. 3 over domestic policy in Denver drew the largest debate audience of the year, with 67.2 million viewers.
The time spent watching the presidential debates also fell in the final debate, which focused on foreign policy at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The average time spent viewing the debate fell to 67.7% of the total minutes of airtime, according to Rentrak, a media measurement service.