Election Night Ratings: ABC Wins Viewers, NBC Demos, CBS Nothing

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November 5th, 2008

Update: The overnight total for the election night TV viewership was a record 71.5 million.

Scoreboard ABC NBC CBS FOX Uni CW
Total Viewers (million) 13.63 13.10 8.00 5.26 4.34 2.64
Rating/Share: Adults 18-49 4.7/10 4.8/10 2.6/5 2.3/5 1.9/4 1.3/3
Rating/Share: Adults 18-34 4.0/9 4.5/10 2.0/4 2.5/6 1.9/4 1.8/4

Forty four million plus on average watched the election coverage on the above mentioned broadcast networks.  I think it's best to hold off on comparing previous years until the cable news numbers are factored in as well.  But as mentioned in an earlier post, with the election not being very close and McCain conceding fairly early, it should be no surprise if there were fewer viewers than in 2004.  It was a very historic night, but it just lacked any drama around "who's gonna win!?"

ABC bettered NBC by roughly a half million people on average, but NBC narrowly defeated ABC among 18-49 year olds, and had an even wider margin of victory among 18-34 year olds.  CBS was a distant third place with 8 million on average and equally far behind in the age demographics.  Fox trailed CBS, but it may well be that the Fox News Channel beat the Fox broadcast network.  We'll find out later, along with results for CNN, MSNBC, etc.  If some of the early metered market data holds up in the finals, both CNN and Fox News will have will have outpaced CBS.

Oh yeah, and the CW ran 90210 and Privileged...

Full details:

Time Net Show Viewers (Millons) 18-49 Rating/Share 18-34 Rating/Share
8:00 NBC NBC News Election Night 2008 13.05 4.4/10 3.8/9
ABC ABC News - Vote 2008 12.87 4.2/9 3.5/8
CBS Campaign '08: Election Night 8.19 2.5/5 1.9/4
FOX You Decide 2008 5.25 2.2/5 2.6/6
UNI Destino 2008: Noche de Elecciones 4.51 1.9/4 1.9/5
CW 90210 3.02 1.4/3 2.0/5
9:00 ABC ABC News - Vote 2008 14.51 5.0/10 4.2/9
NBC NBC News Election Night 2008 13.81 5.1/10 4.8/10
CBS Campaign '08: Election Night 8.32 2.7/5 2.1/5
FOX You Decide 2008 5.28 2.3/5 2.4/5
UNI Destino 2008: Noche de Elecciones 4.68 2.0/4 2.1/4
CW Privileged 2.26 1.1/2 1.5/3
10:00 ABC ABC News - Vote 2008 13.51 5.0/11 4.4/10
NBC NBC News Election Night 2008 12.44 4.8/10 4.8/10
CBS Campaign '08: Election Night 7.50 2.4/5 2.1/5
UNI Destino 2008: Noche de Elecciones 3.84 1.7/4 1.8/4

Shows are sorted by viewers in each time slot.

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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