Most stations up double digits vs. coverage last Nov.

Cable news nets storming California to provide blanket coverage saw substantial audience gains Tuesday evening, demonstrating the nationwide interest in the historic recall race.

On the local front, most stations were up double digits vs. election coverage last November. NBC-owned KNBC led throughout most of the evening in Los Angeles, although Fox-owned KTTV scored high as well, fueled by a highly rated baseball playoff lead-in.

Nationally, Fox News Channel easily took the ratings lead for the evening, followed by CNN and MSNBC.

Timing was a problem for all the news nets, since the polls in California stayed open until 8 p.m. PT — 11 p.m. on the East Coast. News nets had pledged not to project a winner until polls had closed. All projected Schwarzenegger the winner by 11:01 p.m. ET.

Cable news net audiences were up both during primetime, 8-11 p.m. ET, and between 11-12 p.m. ET. The sharpest spikes came with word that the Terminator had apparently won by wide margins.

For the 8-9 p.m. PT block, Fox News averaged 1.85 million viewers — more than double the time period’s average aud month-to-date. CNN averaged 1.28 million viewers, more than three times the time period’s average aud month-to-date. MSNBC averaged 563,000 viewers, more than double the time period’s average.

For the 5-8 p.m. PT block, Fox News averaged 2 million viewers, nearly double the average month-to-date (1.18 million viewers). CNN drew 1.06 million total viewers; month-to-date aud average is 738,000. MSNBC averaged 489,000, compared to the month’s average of 235,000.

KNBC went with special coverage from 9:45 p.m. to midnight, averaging a 5.7 rating and 10 share — up 39% from its election night coverage on Nov. 5, 2002 (when Davis was re-elected to his second term).

KTTV, meanwhile, benefited bigtime from Tuesday night’s Cubs-Marlins game (11.7 national rating/19 share in households), averaging a 6.1/9 for its election coverage, which ran from 9:15-11 p.m.

KABC went with coverage from 10-11:30 p.m., posting a 4.9/8–up 20% from election night last November.

KCAL telecast its usual 8-11 p.m. newsblock, averaging 5.8/8 in the three hours (up 10% from last election night). Sibling KCBS, going live from 9:45-11:30 p.m., averaged a 4.3/7 — an increase of 13% from Nov. 5.

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