Numbers down from two weeks ago but up from 2008

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Interest in the presidential debates remained high Tuesday, even if the season’s second Obama-Romney get-together couldn’t quite match the crowd of two weeks ago.

According to Nielsen, Tuesday’s debate in New York and hosted by CNN’s Candy Crowley averaged 65.63 million viewers across 12 networks from 9 to 10:45 p.m. ET. (Ten networks aired it live, while Univision and Telemundo showed it on tape delay).

This is down from the surprisingly large audience for the first debate on Oct. 3 (67.19 million) but up from the second McCain-Obama debate four years ago (63.23 million).

Compared to that first debate two weeks ago, viewership Tuesday dipped a bit among adults 35-54 and 55-plus and fell off more among the 18-34 crowd; the 11.2 million in this age group was down about 900,000 from the first debate (12.1 million).

NBC drew the biggest audience for the debate (13.8 million), followed by ABC (12.5 million), Fox News (11.1 million) and CBS (8.9 million), according to Nielsen. The network also led all categories in post-debate analysis.

The viewership for Fox News Channel matched an all-time network high, set four years ago by the Palin-Biden VP debate. On Tuesday, the net drew more viewers than CNN (5.8 million) and MSNBC (4.9 million) combined.

On the entertainment side, NBC’s “The Voice” was the No. 1 series (4.6/13, 12.04m), and FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” was cable’s top entertainment series in adults 18-49 (2.2/5, 4.03m). Baseball’s American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees averaged 6.2 million viewers on TBS.

It was a sluggish start, meanwhile, for CW drama “Emily Owens, M.D.” (0.5/1 in 18-49, 1.67m), though it did built a bit in total viewers from its “Hart of Dixie” lead-in (0.6/2, 1.40m). In adults 18-34, “Emily” did a 0.5 rating out of a 0.7 for “Dixie.”

CW opted to premiere the medical-themed drama “Emily Owens” at a time when the Big Four were all covering the presidential debate, but it may have under-estimated the interest in appeal of this election season’s political get-togethers just a few weeks before the election.

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