ABC finished third, snaring 10.5 million.
That makes the 9.3 million logged by CNN look pretty good — beating the 7.9 million for CBS, as well as the just less than 5 million garnered by the Fox broadcast network.
In a major ratings development, CNN discovered that it eked out a bigger audience than did Fox News Channel, from 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the polls officially closed on the East Coast, until 2 a.m. Wednesday, when President Obama finished delivering his speech. During that time, CNN logged an estimated 8.8 million viewers, compared with FNC’s 8.7 million and 4.6 million for MSNBC.
But FNC won the 7 p.m.-to-midnight race. Which suggests that a bunch of FNC viewers did not stick around to watch Obama’s victory speech.
But it’s not the TV networks’ numbers people are going to be talking about for the rest of the week. Instead, it’s the crazy coverage of election night across the networks, in comparison to which, Comedy Central’s election-night anchoring by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert looked like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.
FNC, for instance, was the place to go if you wanted to watch political contributor Karl Rove try to hijack a network and get it to un-declare Ohio for Obama about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
When the FNC “decision desk” stood its ground, senior producers thought of having two members of the number-crunching team go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to discuss. Then someone had a better idea and told Kelly to walk back to the room where the number crunchers were holed up, with camera in tow, and do the interview. Because, New York magazine reported that an FNC “insider” told them, “this is Fox News . . . so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.”
So Kelly did.
And the number crunchers stood by their call.
And they were right.
In marked contrast, when ABC News analyst Matt Dowd brought that network’s election-night coverage to its grinding halt, by stating — twice — that this “may be the last election that we see two white men run against each other for president,” ABC election coverage co-anchor George Stephanopoulos opted — after a bit of nervous laughter and cross talk was heard — not to address the jaw-dropping remark:
“Matt, I’m going to save you for a sec and go to Jake Tapper in Chicago.”
Tapper, to his credit, took a moment from inside Obama headquarters in Chicago to say: “I just want to make sure that everybody is clear on the fact that Barack Obama is not white. Has that been established? . . . I have this breaking-news flash: Barack Obama is African American. If somebody could tell Matt, that’d be great.”
How lucky for Dowd, his gaffe got lost in the excitement over Diane Sawyer’s election-night co-anchoring for ABC, which was trending on Twitter that night.