Friday, September 26: Presidential Debate Averages 29.5 Million on Broadcast TV

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September 27th, 2008

Total Viewers (million) 8.74 7.39 6.50 4.42 4.41
Rating/Share: Adults 18-49 2.6/8 2.0/6 2.0/6 1.4/4 1.4/4

Viewed by an average broadcast audience of 29.53 million, the first Presidential Debate dominated the night's television. (Cable viewership will likely come soon via news story or press release). It is interesting to note that quite a few more viewers watched the debate on ABC than on CBS, NBC or Fox boosting ABC to the win for the night for both average viewers and the adults 18-49 demo. Update: Nielsen has provided some additional data about the debate's performance in local markets.  James Hibberd of The Hollywood reporter has more info here.

In non-debate television, CBS's new The Mentalist won the 8-9 hour for viewers and the 18-49 demo with a repeat. That bodes well for the show. Fox's Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? was down 800,000 viewers, but up a tick in the demo from last week. NBC's America's Toughest Jobs was up 900,000 viewers and 0.2 ratings points in the demo. And finishing at the bottom for viewers and not much better for the demo was the final Friday Night Smackdown to appear on the CW. Next week is its first episode on MyNetworkTV.

Time Net Show Viewers Live+SD (Millons) 18-49 Rating/ Share
8:00 CBS The Mentalist (repeat) 7.80 1.9/6
ABC 20/20 6.61 1.7/6
FOX Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? 5.10 1.4/5
NBC America's Toughest Jobs 4.56 1.3/5
CW Friday Night Smackdown! (8p-10p) 4.21 1.4/5
9:00 ABC Presidential Debate (9-10:30p) 10.20 3.2/9
NBC Presidential Debate (9-10:30p) 7.75 2.4/7
CBS Presidential Debate (9-10:30p) 7.44 2.1/6
FOX Presidential Debate (9-10:30p) 4.14 1.4/4
10:30 ABC Presidentlal Debate Analysis 8.74 2.7/8
NBC Presidentlal Debate Analysis 6.63 2.2/6
CBS Presidentlal Debate Analysis 6.41 1.9/5

Note that the live Presidential Debate causes measurement problems with these Fast Affiliate Overnight Ratings, see below.

Shows are sorted by viewers in each time slot. Demo winners are in bold.

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved. Source Marc Berman/Mediaweek.


Fast Affiliate Overnight Ratings: Local metered-market ratings service of Nielsen Station Index (NSI) in which household ratings and shares are provided to clients the morning following the day or evening of telecast. While routinely used for "next day" immediate analysis, these fast affiliate ratings are by process inaccurate for programs that air live across a network since they represent affiliate time period performance. For example, last night's 10-11pm affiliate #'s would reflect 10pm on the East Coast but also 10pm on the West Coast which for a live event would not represent the same broadcast or portion of the broadcast.

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.

Share (of Audience): The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. (See also, Rating, which represents tuning or viewing as a percent of the entire population being measured.)

LIVE+SD: The number that watched a program either while it was broadcast OR watched via DVR on the same day [through 3AM the next day] the program was broadcast.

For more information see Numbers 101.

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