Over 70 million viewers watch Biden and Palin

Thursday’s first and only vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin is expected to easily draw more than 70 million viewers when Nielsen national estimates for the broadcast and cable networks are released this afternoon.

Preliminary overnight household figures from Nielsen show that 45% of U.S. households were watching the debate on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, CNN, Fox News, CSPAN, MSNBC, CNBC, Telemundo and Telefutura. This is a big jump over the 31.6 overnight rating for the first presidential debate, which aired last Friday and ended up averaging 52.4 million viewers.

It’s fair to assume that Thursday’s debate should draw more than 70 million and perhaps as many as 75 million on the broadcast and cable outlets. PBS also figured to draw about 3.5 million viewers for its coverage, according to early estimates from the public broadcaster, whose ratings are not regularly measured by Nielsen.

Elsewhere Sunday, the hour of primetime prior to the debate in most of the country went easily to CBS’ “Survivor” (4.3 rating/12 share in adults 18-49, 12.8 million viewers overall). Also in the hour, NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) was up week to week to take second place, while ABC’s “Ugly Betty” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 8.6 million viewers overall) was down from its premiere to place third.

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