Overnight Ratings: Nearly 40 Million Watch Sarah Palin - Joe Biden Debate on Broadcast Nets

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October 3rd, 2008

Scoreboard CBS ABC NBC Uni FOX CW
Total Viewers (million) 11.15 10.25 9.45 4.16 3.95 3.76
Rating/Share: Adults 18-49 3.6/9 3.3/8 3.8/9 1.7/4 1.6/4 1.5/4
Rating/Share: Adults 18-34 2.5/7 2.8/7 3.1/8 1.9/5 1.5/4 1.3/4

Update: 11:15am PDT: Variety is reporting that overall viewing for the debate including cable and PBS should top 70 million. If so that would top the presidential debate by more than 33%.

Nearly 40 Million were watching the vice presidential debate on broadcast network television for the 9pm-10pm portion. I can't calculate the full broadcast average for the 9pm-10:30pm portion because we lack any data for Fox after 10pm. We do not have the cable network numbers yet, but we will have them this afternoon and Nielsen will surely publish some aggregate ratings for the event which looks set to easily surpass the ratings for last Friday's presidential debate.

Keep in mind that the total number of people who watched any portion of the debate is much bigger. These numbers are averages based on the entire duration measured.

Younger adults are very interested in this election, the 18-49 demographic numbers for the debate were very good, and the 18-34 numbers were surprisingly strong (see table below), and among these younger viewers NBC seemed the preferred venue.

The night had split leadership with CBS winning the most viewers with Survivor: Gabon and the debate/analysis. But NBC took both the 18-49 demo and the 18-34 demo with its combination of My Name is Earl and the debate. ABC had the most overall viewers during the debate, but ABC, CBS and NBC were fairly tightly knotted. The 10:30p-11pm portion of debate/analysis had ABC in the lead with 9.2 million, NBC with 8.75 million and CBS with 7.91 million.

Fox wasn't really on the map as Hole in the Wall sunk below four million and many more people likely watched the debate on Fox News Channel rather than the Fox broadcast network.

The CW aired new episodes of Smallville (3.948 million) and Supernatural (3.567 million).

Full details:

Time Net Show Viewers (Millons) 18-49 Rating/Share 18-34 Rating/Share
8:00 CBS Survivor: Gabon 12.85 4.4/12 2.6/8
ABC Ugly Betty 8.58 2.6/7 2.4/7
NBC My Name is Earl 7.01 2.9/8 2.4/7
CW Smallville 3.95 1.6/4 1.4/4
UNI Cuidado con el Angel 3.75 1.5/4 1.8/6
FOX Hole in the Wall 3.54 1.5/4 1.5/5
9:00 ABC Vice-Presidential Debate 11.83 4.0/9 3.2/8
NBC Vice-Presidential Debate 11.57 4.6/10 3.8/10
CBS Vice-Presidential Debate 11.44 3.5/8 2.7/7
UNI Fuego en la Sangre 4.85 2.0/4 2.3/6
FOX Vice-Presidential Debate 4.37 1.8/4 1.6/4
CW Supernatural 3.57 1.4/3 1.3/3
10:00 ABC Debate & Analysis 10.34 3.5/8 2.7/7
NBC Debate & Analysis 9.79 3.8/9 3.2/8
CBS Debate & Analysis 9.16 2.8/7 2.1/6
UNI La Rosa de Guadalupe 3.87 1.5/4 1.7/4

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

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.


Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings, including demographics, are available at approximately 11 AM (ET) the day after telecast, and are released to subscribing customers daily. These data, from the National People Meter sample, are strictly time-period information, based on the normal broadcast network feed, and include all programming on the affiliated stations, sometimes including network programming, sometimes not. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. For example, with a World Series game, Fast Affiliate Ratings would include whatever aired from 8-11PM on affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone, following the live football game, but not game coverage that begins at 5PM PT. The same would be true of Presidential debates as well as live award shows and breaking news reports.

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.)

Time Shifted Viewing – Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live+Same Day (Live+SD) and Live+7 Day. Time shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs which are currently in approximately 24.4% of all U.S. TV households. Live+Same Day (Live+SD) include viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3:00AM local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live+7 Day ratings include incremental viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

For more information see Numbers 101.

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