No Debate: Debate Propels Fox News

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The presidential debate and Bill O’Reilly’s exclusive interview with President Bush drove Fox News Channel to the top of cable’s primetime ratings last week.

Fox News averaged a 2.4 household mark Sept. 27-Oct. 3, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. ESPN was second with a 2.0, while USA Network was third at a 1.8.

Disney Channel and Nick at Nite were tied for fourth with a 1.7 average apiece. Rounding out the top 10: Lifetime Television with a 1.6; Cartoon Network and Turner Network Television, both with a 1.5; and TBS and Spike TV, each with 1.4 marks.

Cable News Network, FX, A&E Network and MTV: Music Television just missed the top 10 for the week, all averaging a 1.0.

Gauged on a total-programming-day basis, Nickelodeon was in its usual first-place perch with a 1.6. Channel-sharing sibling Nick at Nite was second at a 1.4. Both Cartoon and Fox News garnered 1.1 averages, while Lifetime and Disney each finished with a 1.0.

Fox News’ coverage of the presidential debate from 9 p.m.-10:31 p.m. Sept. 30 was the week’s highest-rated show with a 6.9. The news network’s analysis of the debate in the following half-hour was third with a 5.8 mark.

The O’Reilly Factor placed four shows in the top 25, headed by a 3.7 Sept. 27 during which the first of a three-part interview with Bush aired.

ESPN’s coverage of the St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49ers National Football League game earned a 6.4, second for the week.