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TV audience up 20% over '04 Democratic convention

August 26, 2008 |  4:21 pm

The opening night of the Democratic National Convention drew more than 22 million viewers, a 20% larger audience than in 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research.

NBC drew the most viewers, pulling an average of 4.71 million viewers for its hour-long special anchored by Brian Williams, up 4% from four years ago.

Despite the huge appetite for political news this season, the ratings for its broadcast competition declined. ABC’s special attracted 4.17 million viewers, down 5% from 2004. CBS fared the worst, pulling in 3.46 million viewers, a drop of 24%.

The picture was far rosier for the cable news networks, whose decision to devote nearly all their programming to convention coverage paid off. All three posted major gains over 2004.

CNN’s ratings propelled it past ABC and CBS at the 7 p.m. Pacific hour, when Michelle Obama gave the night’s keynote speech. The cable news network averaged 4.27 million viewers, beating the broadcast networks for the first time with its convention coverage.

Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. PDT, the convention’s prime-time lineup, CNN also had the largest cable news audience, averaging 3.7 million viewers, 85% more than in 2004. Fox News drew just over 3 million viewers, up 84%, while MSNBC posted 2.15 million viewers, a boost of 88.%

Meanwhile, PBS’ three-hour coverage block was viewed by about 2.8 million people, down slightly from 2004, according to a projection by the public broadcaster based on preliminary Nielsen numbers. Final PBS ratings were not immediately available.

-- Matea Gold

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