Finally, we have Election Night TV ratings directly from Nielsen, plus interesting comparison data from 2004 and 2000. While those earlier elections were a lot closer, their TV viewership was noticeably smaller.
Via Nielsen Media Alert:
Election night TV coverage of the 2008 U.S. election results drew more than 71 million average viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen.
Live news coverage was carried on both broadcast and cable networks, including Spanish-language networks: ABC, CBS, FOX Broadcast, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, BBC America, BET, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, and TV One.
Nielsen’s audience estimates include primetime coverage, from 8pm to 11pm, in the Eastern and Central Time Zones and live in Mountain and Pacific Time Zones.
In 2004, almost 59.2 million viewers tuned in between 8pm and 11pm to watch Election Night TV coverage, as President Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry to win re-election.
On Election Night in 2000, almost 61.6 million viewers (excluding viewers of Spanish language networks) watched primetime TV coverage of President Bush and Former Vice President Al Gore’s embattled election contest.
You can download the entire release here.