Calif. debate scores with auds

Arnie's only appearance draws 38% of LA households

“The Arnold Schwarzenegger/Arianna Huffington Comedy Extravaganza” — oops, we mean Wednesday night’s California Gubernatorial Debate — scored with viewers, both locally and nationwide.

In Los Angeles, the California Broadcasters Assn.-sponsored debate (which aired from 6-7:30 p.m.) averaged a 22.1 rating/38 share combined on local outlets KABC, KCAL, KCBS, KCOP, KNBC and KTTV.

That means 38% of Los Angeles households watching TV at that time tuned in to see Schwarzenegger (in his only debate appearance) trade well-rehearsed barbs with a feisty Huffington, alongside fellow major candidates Cruz Bustamante, Tom McClintock and Peter Camejo.

In comparison, the six stations together averaged a 17.3 rating/37 share last Wednesday with regular programming (including news on KABC, KNBC and KCBS, off-net laffers on KTTV and firstrun strips on KCOP and KCAL).

KABC led all stations with its coverage of the debate held at Sacramento State U., averaging a 8.2 rating/14 share. KNBC was next (5.3/9), followed by KCBS (5.0/9), KTTV (1.6/3), KCAL (1.3/2) and KCOP (0.7/1). KTLA stuck with regular fare.

Among the cable news nets, which also carried the debate, Fox News Channel won by a landslide. The net averaged 2.29 million viewers nationwide, thanks in part to a solid “O’Reilly Factor” lead-in (2.37 million).

CNN was next (959,000 viewers), hampered by a weaker “Paula Zahn Now” lead-in (426,000 viewers). MSNBC averaged 419,000 viewers for the debate.

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