NEW YORK — The race is back on — or least it was on Thursday as presidential politics allowed CNN to beat the generally invincible Fox News Channel in primetime.
According to Nielsen Media Research, CNN averaged 1.61 million viewers between 8-11 p.m. ET, the time period during which the news net aired a 90-minute debate among Democratic presidential candidates.
Fox News averaged 1.25 million viewers between 8-11 p.m. ET. MSNBC trailed far behind at 325,000 viewers.
CNN also won the key news demo of adults 25-54, averaging 468,000 viewers. Fox News averaged 325,000 viewers in the demo and MSNBC 141,000.
Fox News wins day
Fox News still won the total day, averaging 683,000 total viewers, while CNN averaged 557,000.
The primetime presidential debate, featuring all nine candidates, was telecast from the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix, airing from 8-9:30 p.m. ET. Event was moderated by CNN political anchor Judy Woodruff and Washington correspondents Candy Crowley and Jeff Greenfield.
Politics has been spicing up the ratings for all the cable news nets, even though the presidential election is more than a year away. CNBC and sister cable news net MSNBC both saw ratings spikes when telecasting a candidates’ debate last month.
Fox News, which beat the competish in sponsoring one of the earliest debates with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, also boasted a strong audience turnout.
The previous time that CNN beat Fox News in primetime was on Aug. 14, during the blackout in Gotham and other major cities. TV industryites cautioned that it was difficult to count that a victory, considering the disruption to major TV markets.
Fox News has held the No. 1 spot in the cable news wars for almost two years.