Debate Coverage Fuels Primetime Win For Fox News

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Led by its presentation of the second presidential debate and related programming, Fox News Channel claimed the top spot in primetime cable ratings last week.

The cable news sector leader averaged a 2.7 household rating and 3.44 million viewers from Oct. 6 through Oct. 12, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Fox News was propelled by the 8.77 million viewers who watched the so-called town hall forum between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and his GOP adversary John McCain on Oct. 7. The show was the third highest for the week in basic cable and was followed in the standings by the 7.65 million who watched On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, immediately thereafter.

It was FNC’s second primetime triumph in five weeks: it also won the period ended Sept. 7 behind its Republican National Convention coverage.

CNN’s presentation of the political event from Belmont University in Nashville notched 9.22 million watchers to finish second for the week, while Anderson Cooper 360 that night followed with 7.63 million, good for fifth. All told, CNN was sixth for the week with a 1.8 household average and 2.39 million viewers.. MSNBC also climbed into the top 10, finishing in a tie for ninth with a 1.3 mark.

Driven by its exclusive coverage of Major League Baseball’s Division Series and the first two games of the American League Championship Series pitting the Tampa Bay Rays against the Boston Red Sox, TBS was second for the week with a 2.4 average and 3.33 million viewers. TBS, which won the prior week’s race with MLB’s postseason, scored the week’s sixth- (Game 1 of the ALCS connected with 6.69 million viewers), seventh- (the 12-inning, 5-hour, 43-minute Game 2 of that series averaged 6.09 million) and ninth- (5.72 million for the Sox’s ALDS Game 4 clincher of the Los Angels Anaheim) most-viewed shows for the week.

USA, riding WWE action and its stripped syndicated schedule of House, was third with a 2.2 rating and 2.83 million viewers. One show that didn’t start especially well: The Starter Wife averaged 2.64 million viewers for its two-hour series debut on Oct. 10.

ESPN, which has the top show of the week with the Monday Night Football matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints that tackled 10.9 million viewers on Oct. 6, was tied with sister service, Disney Channel, both with a 2.0 ratings average.

CNN and MSNBC aside, TNT and Nick at Nite, both with 1.4 average, and Cartoon Network, with a 1.3 matching the third-ranked cable news network, rounded out the top 10 for the week in primetime.

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