UPDATE, 2:49 PM: The third Presidential debate of 2012 pulled in 2.7 million more viewers last night than watched the third debate between Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008. Pulling in 59.2 million total viewers, last night’s debate was down 10% from the 65.6 million viewers who watched the second meeting between Obama and Mitt Romney on October 16 and down 12% from the 67.2 million who watched their first debate October 3. NBC led the night Monday with 12.39 million viewers (5.84 million in the adults 25-54 demo) watching the third face-off between President Obama and Romney. ABC came in second with 11.73 million viewers. Fox News Channel was third with almost 11.5 million viewers, an all-time viewership high for the 16-year-old news network. CBS was fourth with 8.43 million viewers overall. ABC, CBS, NBC, Univision, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Current TV and CNBC all aired the 9-10:30 PM ET debate live last night. Telemundo played it on tape delay. Fox did not broadcast the debate, instead airing Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, which drew 8.1 million viewers. ESPN aired Monday Night Football to 10.7 million viewers. Both sports events were beaten in viewership by NBC, ABC and Fox News’s debate coverage.
PREVIOUSLY, 10:58 AM: Almost 11.5 million viewers watched the third and final Presidential debate last night on Fox News Channel. That makes Monday’s face-off between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney the all-time high for any broadcast in the network’s 16-year history. Fox News’ 11.47 million viewers of the 9-10:30 PM ET debate was more than rivals CNN and MSNBC’s audiences put together, according to Nielsen. Fox News also drew 3.43 million in the adults 25-54 demographic. CNN attracted 5.8 million viewers overall (2.5 million in 25-54), and MSNBC had 4.06 million (1.7 million in 25-54). Fox News took the top spot among cable networks for all the Presidential debates this year.
Fox News’ numbers for the foreign-policy-focused debate were up from the 11.1 million it pulled in for the second debate between Obama and Romney on October 16. That broadcast was tied with the 2008 Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden as Fox News’ former all-time high rating. The second Presidential debate had an overall audience of 65.6 million viewers on 12 networks, down from the 67.2 million who watched the first debate October 3. Fox News drew 10.4 million viewers for that one.
The third debate of the 2008 Presidential campaign was watched by a total of 56.5 million viewers on 12 networks. Like last night’s debate, that match-up between Obama and John McCain was moderated by CBS’s Bob Schieffer. Fast nationals had Monday’s third Presidential debate down double digits on ABC, NBC and CBS compared with the second debate. For the first time this season, Fox did not broadcast the debate, instead showing Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. (Fox also did not show the third debate in 2008, again airing baseball playoffs.) ESPN also had Monday Night Football last night. With that in mind, we will update with more reliable broadcast network debate numbers later today.