Last night, President Obama and Mitt Romney faced their biggest debate challenge yet. No, it wasn’t moderator Bob Schieffer’s questions or trying to restrain themselves from punching each other when seated within arm’s reach. For the first time in three Presidential and one Vice Presidential debate, it aired against football: Monday Night Football on ESPN. To make things even more competitive, the San Francisco Giants needed a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series to clinch a spot in the World Series, so the debate faced that face-off too on the East Coast. Because the NCLS went the distance, Fox did not carry the debate last night, the first time it’s done so this fall. Because of that, cume ratings for the third Presidential debate on the broadcast networks are running down double digits from the second debate in early estimates. Time-adjusted ratings for the debate will be available in a few hours. (UPDATE: Fox News set a viewership record.)
To accommodate the debate, NBC’s The Voice and ABC’s Dancing With The Stars were condensed to an hour, running from 8-9 PM. For Dancing (2.4/6), that actually boosted ratings as the dancing competition rose 14% from last week’s two-hour edition. However, ABC carried an NFL game in Detroit, so the the network’s fast nationals are likely inflated. The Voice (4.2/11) suffered from going down to one hour, dropping 29% from last Monday’s 8-10 PM telecast. It also was down 10% from its Tuesday edition last week, which, like last night’s episode, aired from 8-9 PM.
CBS watched largely from the sidelines, with comedy repeats in the 8 PM hour. On the CW, 90210 (0.4/1) continued its ratings see-saw this fall, giving back its gains from last week, down 33%. Gossip Girl (0.4/1) kept steady.