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TV Column
Posted at 02:12 PM ET, 10/04/2012

About 67 million people watch first presidential debate


Obama and Romney at the first debate, at the University of Denver. (Rick Wilking - AP)

More than 67 million people watched the first presidential debate of this election cycle — nearly 15 million more people than watched the first presidential debate four years ago.

That 67 million, however, falls very short of the Mother of All Presidential Debates: the Oct. 28, 1980 smackdown between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, which had drawn a whopping 81 million viewers.

About 12 million of the 67 mil who watched President Obama square off with GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney at the University of Denver were aged 18-34 years. Nearly 31 million of them were 55 years or older, Nielsen reported Thursday.

The debate was carried live across 11 networks; Telemundo aired it on tape delay.

In a tight race at the top, ABC appears to have, once again, snagged the most viewers to the first presidential debate of this election cycle — like it did four years ago. About 11.25 million people watched Romney vow to axe Big Bird, on ABC.

That’s up a tick from four years ago when 11 million people watched Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama in their first face-off, which had also been moderated by PBS’s Jim Lehrer. Lehrer got better reviews in ’08.

This time, ABC was closely followed by NBC, with about 11.1 million viewers – up a lot from its 7.1 million of four years ago.

CBS snagged 10.6 million viewers, compared to 08’s 7.6 million.

Fox News Channel averaged 10.436 million viewers — also a big improvement over 08’s 8.2 million.

CNN clocked around 6.1 million viewers — a 1 million viewer drop from ’08, but still strong enough to beat MSNBC’s average audience of 4.7 million.

MSNBC, however, showed growth, having averaged 3.9 million for the first debate of ’08. But not as much growth as Fox broadcast network, which is not known for carrying news programming of any kind.

Fox broadcast network also carried the debate Wednesday night, anchored by Shep Smith, who had also anchored its debate coverage in ’08.

This time, Fox broadcast network scored nearly 7 million viewers – nearly 3 million viewers better than four years back.

Notice how the Fox broadcast network — home of  “New Girl,” “Family Guy” and “X Factor” — beat cable news networks MSNBC — and CNN.

By  |  02:12 PM ET, 10/04/2012

 
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