2ND UPDATE: 3:16 PM: NBC won the ratings battle for Election Night 2012, but overall primetime viewership across all networks was down more than 4 million from 2008. Anchored by Brian Williams from “Democracy Plaza” in New York, NBC News’ 8-11 PM broadcast pulled in an average of 12.122 million viewers, 5.772 million viewers in the key adults 25-54 demographic. Fox News Channel was second overall with 11.5 million viewers and 4.45 million in the demo. ABC was third with 10.517 million total viewers and CNN was fourth with 9.25 million, followed by CBS with 7.923 million, Fox’s broadcast network with 4.934 million and MSNBC with 4.66 million. Nielsen says 66.8 million viewers watched live coverage over 13 networks from 8-11 last night, down from the record-breaking 71 million who watched Election Night 2008. ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, Current TV, and TV One broadcast the 2012 election. That compares with 14 networks in 2008.
1ST UPDATE, 11:22 AM: CNN took the ratings prize last night among cable news networks, just topping Fox News Channel’s coverage. However, when it came to the primetime hours of 8-11 PM ET, the latter hit an all-time viewership high with an audience of 11.5 million. Among its cable rivals CNN and MSNBC it was the only one up in viewership and the demo in primetime compared with 2008.
Anchored by Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, CNN’s 7 PM-2 AM coverage won in total viewers and the 25-54 demo. CNN had an average of 8.836 million total viewers for the night, with 4.387 in the demo. Fox News was a close second with 8.708 million total viewers, with 3.494 million in the demo. MSNBC was a distant third with 4.604 million viewers, with 2.021 million in 25-54.
In primetime though, Fox News was far ahead. Last night’s 11.5 million primetime viewers beat the network’s previous high of 9.2 million who watched the 2008 Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Fox News drew 4.45 million in the 25-54 demo, just below CNN’s 4.57 million. CNN had a total primetime viewership of 9.25 million; MSNBC drew 4.66 million, with 1.99 million in the demo. Fox News had the highest peak of the night with 11.8 million viewers between 10-11 PM ET.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:44 AM: If fast nationals hold, NBC can declare an Election Night 2012 victory for its coverage in both ratings and overall viewers. In approximate live numbers, NBC drew a 4.6/10 rating for its coverage of President Obama’s re-election last night. Although down 2% from the network’s 2008 coverage, it finished ahead of last night’s runner-up ABC, which got a 3.8/8. In 2008, NBC won Election Night in ratings but lost to ABC in overall viewership; this year, ABC was down 19% in its ratings from 2008. CBS was up 8% from four years ago with a 2.7/6 rating. Fox, who measured in the 8 – 10 PM ET window, was down 9% with a 2.0/4.
Overall, NBC had 12.56 million viewers last night. ABC had 11.15 million, CBS 8.42 million and Fox 4.95 million. ABC, NBC and CBS kicked off full election coverage at 4 PM PT after their nightly news broadcasts played on the East Coast. Fox came on at 5 PM PT. NBC called Obama’s win at 8:12 PM PT after the incumbent was projected to win the swing state of Ohio.
On Election Night 2008, ABC got a 4.7/10 and 13.63 million overall viewers as Obama beat John McCain. NBC drew 13.10 million viewers and a 4.7/10 on November 4, 2008. CBS finished with a 2.5/5 and 8 million viewers and Fox 2.2/5 and 5.26 million viewers.
We will update later with final numbers as well as with ratings results from the cable news networks.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.