With Bill English and Jacinda Ardern squaring up for the first time last night, more than a million New Zealanders flocked to TVNZ to watch the two leaders talk it out.
TVNZ says the hour-long prime time debate reached 1.1 million TV viewers and was watched by an average audience of 783,000 (AP5+). Nearly half of New Zealand's TV viewing audience were locked on the programme (48.8 percent share).
In 2014, the debate was watched by an average audience of 631,300 (AP5+) with an audience share of 36.9 percent.
There was a total of 144,000 streams across TVNZ's multiple online platforms. These include TVNZ.co.nz's live stream, OnDemand, 1 News Now, Re: and TVNZ's Youtube and Facebook channels.
"Last night was a big TV moment. In the country's living rooms, pubs and bars, people were riveted by the debate," says John Gillespie, TVNZ's head of news and current affairs. "It was a massive news day in so many ways with our latest 1 News Colmar Brunton poll coming shortly before the debate and adding to the drama of the night."
"The event was a galvanising event for so many New Zealanders. The keen interest and engagement in the political process is great to see. It's important to us to be able to bring it to so many people."
In addition to the dramatic poll results that put Labour ahead of National for the first time since Helen Clark was leader of the party, the first Leaders Debate generated much interest as both parties fronted their campaigns with brand new leaders since the last general election between John Key and David Cunliffe.
The debate also attracted much hype due to the controversial appointment of Seven Sharp host Mike Hosking to the moderator role. The decision drew derision from some members of the public, accusing Hosking of being politically biased and unfair to the left. A petition was set up asking TVNZ to remove Hosking from the role. However, TVNZ declined to back down.
Following last night's debate, Gillespie adds that Hosking did "an outstanding job" moderating the two leaders. Hosking will also be moderating TVNZ's next two debates, with the multi-party debate taking place on the 8 September and the next Leaders Debate taking place on the 20 September. TVNZ will also be hosting a 90-minute Young Voters Debate on the 14 September which will be chaired by Breakfast host Jack Tame.
Ardern and English will go head-to-head for the second time next week when Patrick Gower moderates the live Newshub leaders debate on September 4.
1 News Vote 17 Leaders Debate
Average Daily Reach 1,131,000 (AP5+)
Average Audience 783,700 (AP5+)
Share: 48.8% (AP5+)
Average Daily Reach 393,200 (25-54)
Average Audience 259,500 (25-54)
Share: 36.9% (25-54)
Vote 2014 Leaders Debate
Average Daily Reach 1,049,600 (AP5+)
Average Audience 631,300 (AP5+)
Share: 36.2% (AP5+)
Average Daily Reach 403,900 (25-54)
Average Audience 217,200 (25-54)
Share: 27.7% (25-54)