Debate season continues to be a big ratings draw, with Tuesday’s presidential showdown between John McCain and Barack Obama averaging an impressive 63.23 million viewers on broadcast and cable networks.
While below the record-setting 69.99 million who tuned in for the previous week’s vice presidential discussion, Tuesday’s aud was considerably larger than the 52.42 million who watched this fall’s first prexy debate on Sept. 26. (That debate aired on a Friday, likely contributing to lower numbers.)
It’s also the largest viewership for a presidential debate since the second go-round in 1992 between Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George Bush.
Nielsen did not issue individual network tallies for the broadcast nets, but ABC appeared to draw the largest aud (roughly 13.2 million). On the cable side, CNN’s coverage (9.23 million) drew slightly more viewers than Fox News (8.77), with MSNBC attracting 3.77 million.
PBS, whose numbers aren’t released the following day by Nielsen, estimates that it averaged 2.8 million viewers for Tuesday’s debate.
In post-debate coverage that lasted from roughly 10:35-11 p.m. ET, ABC drew the largest aud (9.92 million), followed by NBC (8.35m), CBS (7.95m), Fox News (7.65m), CNN (7.63m) and MSNBC (3.93m).
The third and final presidential debate will be held Wednesday.