The second night of the news networks’ coverage of the 2020 presidential election saw CNN surpass Fox News for No. 1 overall in primetime, scoring 7.12 million viewers Wednesday, its second-highest total in its 40-year history, to lead all broadcast and cable outlets. The night featured rising tensions as vote counts continued in several swing states that will determine the outcome of the race between President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden.
The change came a day after Fox News’ primetime coverage Tuesday topped all TV networks with 13.7 million total viewers to set a record for the most-watched Election Night coverage in cable news history. That paced an estimated 56.9 million people overall who watched Night 1 in primetime across 21 networks.
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That total was down from the 71 million viewers who tuned in to the 13 networks that covered live the election results in primetime on November 8, 2016.
CNN said that 2016 night was its most-watched in the network’s history, with Wednesday night’s number now second to that record total. The network beat FNC (6.34 million viewers), MSNBC (4.81M) and the three broadcast nets who provided coverage in primetime last night. CNN was also tops in the news demo of adults 25-54, with FNC, NBC and MSNBC following.
Fox News remains the most watched overall for the two days over coverage, combining primetime and total day numbers. Its Wednesday post-Election Day edition of morning staple Fox & Friends saw its highest-rated show in its history, averaging 4.64M viewers and and 1.04M in adults 25-54.
NBC, which aired three hours of primetime coverage Wednesday night (compared with 10 p.m. hourlong specials on ABC and CBS) led the broadcasters with 3.41 million viewers in Nielsen Live + Same Day fast affiliates.
All the cable and broadcast nets have also reported significant gains in digital viewership this election as more eyeballs look to online platforms.
Expect numbers to remain high for tonight’s coverage, which will focus on the final vote counts in the key swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona as Biden sits nearest to the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the presidency.
NBC and ABC are again shifting their primetime programming on Thursday to accommodate coverage.
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