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Posted at 05:50 PM ET, 10/23/2012

Third presidential debate least watched of the three: 59.2 million viewers [UPDATED]

As forecast, Monday’s third and final presidential debate attracted fewer viewers than had the first two meetings of the candidates. An estimated 59.2 million people tuned in across 11 networks to watch Monday’s final face-off between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney before Election Day.


(Eric Gay - AP)

Still, that’s about 2.7 million more viewers than had watched the third presidential debate back in ‘08.

Monday’s debate was pitted against two big sporting events and everyone got bloodied, ratings-wise.

Monday Night Football on ESPN, attracted an average of 10.7 million people — the franchise’s second smallest crowd so far this season — and Game 7 of the MLB NLCS on Fox, which clocked 8.1 million, was on the low side.

Fox News Channel, however, scored its biggest audience ever — 11.5 million viewers — covering Monday’s third and final presidential debate, when Fox broadcast network bowed out to cover game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

The past two presidential debates, and the one veep debate, Fox broadcast network’s coverage had been hosted by Fox News Channel’s Shep Smith.

But NBC scored the debates’ largest audience: 12.4 million viewers, followed by ABC’s 11.7 million. CBS trailed Fox News Channel with 8.4 million tuned in to its coverage.

Though the debate focused on foreign policy and was moderated by CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, Fox News Channel scored a bigger crowd Monday night than did “Monday Night Football” and Game 7 of the NLCS.

With Fox broadcast net out of the picture, Fox News Channel’s coverage of Monday’s Obama/Romney match brought the cable news network’s biggest audience in its 16-year history.

FNC’s previous best-ever ratings performance was the 11.1 million it clocked covering the 2008 vice presidential debate between then Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden.

 Or, FNC may have gained some of the MSNBC viewers — you betcha. Anyway, MSNBC averaged 4.1 million debate viewers Monday night, compared to 4.9 million for the second presidential candidates’ encounter.

 CNN came in on par with the second debate, at 5.8 million viewers. FNC not only beat football and baseball, it beat CNN and MSNBC debate coverage combined.

The other two presidential debates had not competed for eyeballs with a big sporting event, much less two big sporting events.

  Fox News Channel had started dancing the happy dance early Tuesday morning, before debate ratings were issued, upon learning it scored last week’s biggest audience among all cable networks in primetime and in “total day.” FNC averaged 3.7 million viewers in primetime last week primetime crowd — beating ESPN by nearly 1 million viewers — and even edging out Nickelodeon for “total day.

In primetime last week, FNC averaged 3.7 million viewers — the netweork’s biggest haul since the week of the Sarah Palin/Joe Biden debate back in 2008. Last week, FNC clocked its biggest debate ratings since that ‘08 veep debate, which stands as FNC’s most watched telecast ever; for this election cycle’s second presidential debate, FNC averaged more than11 million viewers, enabling it to beat ESPN’s 2.8 million for the primetime week.

By  |  05:50 PM ET, 10/23/2012

 
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