The 2012 presidential election wasn’t as big a TV event as the 2008 contest, drawing an audience about 5 million viewers smaller than four years ago.
Nielsen says an average of 66.84 million people watched prime-time coverage of the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on 13 networks — all of the big four broadcast nets plus PBS, Univision, Telemundo, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, Current TV and TV One. That’s down from 71.47 million in 2008 across a comparable spectrum of channels. The drop of about 7 percent in viewers pretty well mirrors the projected dip in voter turnout compared to 2008.
NBC led the way in primetime, drawing just over 12.1 million viewers. Fox News scored 11.45 million viewers from 8 to 11 p.m. ET, beating out both ABC (10.5 million) and CBS (7.9 million). The FOX network carried separate, Fox News-produced coverage and brought in 4.9 million people.
CNN delivered an audience of 9.25 million people in primetime, while MSNBC drew about 4.7 million viewers.
CNN also scored a couple of rare victories over Fox News. While the latter was tops in primetime, CNN scored the biggest cable audience for the full night’s coverage (7 p.m. to 2 a.m.), averaging 8.8 million viewers to Fox’s 7.7 million. CNN also led the adults 25-54 demographic — the sweet spot for news programs — in both primetime and the full night.