An estimated 100 million people watched all or part of the Big Three’s coverage of the election returns between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., based on Nielsen national statistics for Tuesday night.
ABC topped all others with its election coverage, earning a 14.0/20 national number for the period, which represented a 21% increase over 1988. CBS, up 37% from its tally in 1988, finished second with a 13.6/20 while NBC, up 5% over 1988, was third with a 12.2/17.
Combined, the three networks’ rating was a 39.8/57, up 20% from the same period in 1988 when the three scored a 33.1/51.
According to CBS, ratings for prime time news event coverage often mirrors the performance of each network’s evening news programming or the normal competitive averages of the programming the event replaced. For example, “The CBS Evening News” typically earns ratings that are 90% of what news leader ABC’s “World News Tonight” posts. CBS’ prime time schedule on Tuesday usually does about 85% of the ratings ABC does on the same night. CBS’ ratings for the election, however, were 97% of ABC’s for the same period, representing a decent performance for the Eye Web.
Fox Broadcasting, which offered affiliates a comedy-packed Tuesday as counterprogramming, finished fourth in household numbers between 8 and 10 p.m., although scored very well in demographic statistics for the time frame.
According to Nielsen figures, ABC won between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. with a 14.0/ 19, CBS was second at 13.4/19, NBC third with an 11.5/16 and Fox pulled in the rear with a 10.5/15.
However, looking at the all-important 18-49 adult demographic, Fox’s comedy plate finished second behind ABC, leaving CBS and NBC in third and fourth respectively. More important, Fox finished first in its own key demographic, adults 18-34, where it scored an 8.9/20 to ABC’s 7.6/17; CBS’ 5.8/13; and NBC’s 5.6/12.
CNN, meanwhile, generated a 6.5/9 within its cable universe for its election coverage, representing 3,975,000 households. That’s up 396% from the 1.6/2.4 CNN earned in 1988 when just 801,000 households tuned in. For comparison, CNN’s 24 -hour average for 1992 is a 2.6/7.3 or 1,595,000 households.