Final Presidential Debate Draws 59.2 million Viewers

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NielsenAn estimated 59.2 million people tuned in to watch the third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Monday, October 22.


An estimated 65.6 million people tuned in to watch the second debate, and 67.2 million people that watched the first presidential debate on Wednesday, October 3.

The foreign policy-focused debate, hosted by Lynn University in Florida and moderated by CBS’ Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, was carried across 11 networks.

While coverage varied by network, 10 networks aired live coverage from approximately 9:00PM to 10:30PM while Telemundo aired coverage on tape delay. The chart below highlights the sum of the average audience for these networks.

The debate was up against two sporting events—Monday Night Football on ESPN, which had 10.7 million people (P2+) tuning in and Game 7 of the MLB NLCS on FOX, which had 8.1 million people watching.

2012 Presidential Debates
Sum of Networks Live + Same Day
October 3, 2012 October 16, 2012 October 22, 2012
Rating Number of Viewers Rating Number of Viewers Rating Number of Viewers
All Households
40.4
46,242,000
40.0
45,589,000
35.9
41,181,000
Persons 2+
23.1
67,187,000
22.7
65,635,000
20.5
59,235,000
Persons 18-34
17.8
12,079,000
16.5
11,242,000
14.2
9,591,000
Persons 35-54
24.7
19,929,000
24.3
19,426,000
21.4
17,138,000
Persons 55+
39.6
30,811,000
39.4
30,661,000
36.5
28,483,000
2008 Presidential Debates
September 26, 2008 October 7, 2008 October 15, 2008
Rating Number of Viewers Rating Number of Viewers Rating Number of Viewers
Persons 2+
18.1
52,418,000
21.9
63,233,000
19.6
56,523,000

2012 Networks Included:
Debate 1
– ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, PBS, CNN, FOXNC, MSNBC, CurrentTV and CNBC
Debate 2
– ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, TEL, UNI, PBS, CNN, FOXNC, MSNBC, CurrentTV and CNBC
Debate 3
– ABC, CBS, NBC, TEL, UNI, PBS, CNN, FOXNC, MSNBC, CurrentTV and CNBC

2008 Networks Included:
Debate 1
– ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telefutura, Telemundo, BBC-America, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC
Debate 2
– ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, BBC-America, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, and MSNBC
Debate 3
– ABC, CBS, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, BBC-America, CNBC, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, MUN2 – The MLB Playoffs aired on FOX broadcast opposite the debate


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.