Second presidential debate logs 1 million viewers shy of first one

October 17, 2012

Nearly 66 million people across 12 television networks watched President Obama slug it out with GOP candidate Mitt Romney at Tuesday night’s meme-tastic, town-hall-style debate, Nielsen reports.

 Tuesday’s performance, which guest-starred Binders Full of Women, attracted an audience of 65.6 million — or about 1 million shy of the crowd that witnessed the two men battle over Big Bird two weeks earlier.

But that audience came in 2.4 million viewers ahead of the second, similarly town-hall-ish debate between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain in ’08.

More than 11 million viewers watched Tuesday’s duel on Fox News Channel. FNC virtually matched its biggest telecast crowd ever, which was achieved during the ’08 veep debate between then-Sen. Joe Biden and then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

 But FNC’s audience was not the biggest as the two men tangled at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

 NBC led the TV pack, attracting about 13.8 million people — including, we’re guessing, a good chunk of the 12 million who’d just finished watching NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” on the East Coast and/or were planning to watch “The Voice” after the debate on the West Coast.

 An additional 12.5 million viewers picked ABC, and just less than 9 million went with CBS.

 Meanwhile, Fox’s broadcast network logged 4.6 million viewers — a slightly bigger, and older, crowd than it enjoyed last week on Tuesday with “The Mindy Project” and “New Girl.”

 Last night’s numbers show a major redistribution of the cable news audience, compared with the second presidential debate in 2008.

 Overall, FNC, CNN and MSNBC cumed a debate crowd virtually identical to ’08. But back then, CNN led the cable news pack, edging FNC and trouncing MSNBC.

 This time, CNN — whose chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, moderated Tuesday’s debate — trailed FNC with just 5.8 million viewers. CNN edged an improved MSNBC, which logged 4.9 million.

 Four years ago, 63.2 million people watched the second debate between Obama and McCain, Nielsen said Wednesday.

 Earlier this month, more than 67 million people watched the first presidential debate across 11 broadcast and cable networks — nearly 15 million more people than watched the first presidential debate in ’08.

Last week’s veep debate, on the other hand, with its audience of 51 million, predictably fell far short of the 73 million who sat glued to their TVs in ’08 to watch Biden take on Palin. That remains the second most watched debate in U.S. history — presidential or vice-presidential — behind only the 81 million who watched GOP candidate Ronald Reagan mow over President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

First lady’s ABC schedule

A Michelle Obama booking continues to elude ABC News’s infotainment program “Good Morning America,” but the first lady is filling her dance card with other ABC shows.

On Wednesday, ABC announced that she had signed up for her first guest appearance on the net’s late-night show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Michelle Obama will visit Hollywood-based Kimmel next Thursday — the same day she’s scheduled to attend a fundraiser at Will Smith’s house — to “encourage Americans to exercise their right to vote.”

Kimmel, who sat next to her on the dais when he hosted this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, will “encourage the First Lady to eat more pizza,” ABC said.

Obama has also been booked to guest on the ABC daytime talker “Live With Kelly and Michael” this Friday. But that appearance was taped two days ahead of broadcast.

The first lady’s “Live” broadcast will air the morning after GOP first-lady hopeful Ann Romney stops by ABC’s other talker, “The View,” to fulfill her husband’s promise to sit with the ladies of that show (after he was heard on a widely circulated tape shot at a private fundraiser at which he said appearing on “The View” was a “high-risk” proposition because of the four “sharp-tongued” non-conservative co-hosts ).

Romney bailed on the “View” appointment earlier this week, citing a scheduling conflict.

“GMA” has been trying hard for weeks to schedule the first lady as a “Super Special Guest Who Gets to Interview Other Guests” on the show, coinciding with the program’s campaign to book “celeb” guest co-hosts while regular co-host Robin Roberts is on medical leave.

“You should know at home, we invited Michelle Obama here for a special morning as well, and she is still working out her schedule. We hope to see her soon,” “GMA” host George Stephanopoulos told viewers last week when Ann Romney was the show’s “Super Special Guest Who Gets to Interview Other Guests.”

To read Lisa de Moraes’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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