From “What was up with Diane Sawyer?” to “Did you see Karl Rove challenge the Ohio results on FOX News?,” post-election night discussions centered around the televised coverage as much as they centered around the actual outcome of the presidential race. According to Nielsen estimates, NBC led the pack in terms of total number of viewers on Tuesday night.
More than 12 million viewers tuned into NBC’s prime-time coverage of the event, making that network #1 in the ratings race. Scoring another victory for the Peacock network, NBC anchor Brian Williams was the first to announce that President Barack Obama had won the race.
FOX News came in second with 11.5 million viewers, followed by ABC with 10.5 million, CNN with 9.3 million, and CBS with 7.9 million. The FOX broadcast network had 4.9 million viewers, and MSNBC had 4.7 million.
A total of more than 66 million people watched news coverage on more than a dozen TV channels. This is slightly down from the 2008 election night, when a record was set with more than 71 million viewers.
To put these ratings in perspective, we can look at some other major televised events. Earlier this year the Super Bowl brought in about 111 million total viewers, and the 1983 finale of MASH drew 106 million. These numbers prove that while politics has its fair share of drama, sports and comedy are the TV networks’ real winners.