NBC, Fox News On Top With Final Presidential Debate


In the final 2008 Presidential debate, Fox News Channel and NBC were the ratings winners on the cable and broadcast sides.

NBC set the pace with the face-off between Republican nominee John McCain and his Democratic opponent Barack Obama from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York last night, averaging almost 11.3 million viewers from 9 p.m. to 10:31 p.m..ABC was second with 10.6 million watchers, followed by CBS with 9.16 million, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

Black Rock nipped Fox New Channel, which led the cable news networks, averaging 9.07 million viewers, ahead of CNN’s 8.93 million. MSNBC had 3.72 million, while sister cable service CNBC delivered 731,000.

All told, the Oct. 15 debate -- carried by the aforementioned services, as well as Telemundo, Mun2, Univision and BBC America -- averaged 56.5 million. Fox didn’t carry the debate, instead presenting the fifth and deciding game of baseball’s National League Championship Series in which the Philadelphia Phillies knocked out the Los Angeles Dodgers to reach the Fall Classic; the contest drew 8 million viewers.

Last night’s forum from Long Island, moderated by CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, finished 10% above the 51.2 million who tuned in the third debate between President George Bush and John Kerry on Oct. 13, 2004 (Fox was also carrying MLB postseason action that night).

It also out-delivered the 52.4 million who watched the first Obama-McCain debate of the current cycle from Oxford, Miss. on Sept. 26, but was well behind their so-called town meeting in Nashville on Oct. 8, when 63.2 million screened the verbal jousting on average.

All three Presidential confrontations trailed the Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden on Oct. 2, which drew 69.9 million watchers.

Among key demos, CNN won cable's night with 4.3 million adults 25 to 54, versus 2.96 million for FNC and 1.55 million for MSNBC.

CNN also earned the sector's Oct 15 Nielsen laurels among adults 18 to 49 with 4.08 million of those watchers and adults 18 to 34 with 1.83 million of that dermo. FNC scored with 2.45 million and 765,000 of those groups, respectively. For its part, MSNBC tallied 1.47 million adults 18 to 49 and 649,000 of the younger set.