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Record TVs tuned to the Obama-Biden victory over McCain-Palin

With a precision that can only come from the knowledge that none of us are doing our own count, The Nielsen Co. just announced that 71,478,000 of us in 47,508,000 households watched the election returns on TV during normal prime-time hours last night.

This compares with audiences of 59.2 million in 2004 and 61.6 million in 2000, both Bush victories. You remember those numbers, don't you?

As The Times' Matea Gold points out over on the Show Tracker blog, this year's election night viewers far outnumbered previous quadrennial elections. In fact, almost one in four U.S. TV sets were tuned to the results.

Actually, the election reports were very hard to avoid, unless you can stomach Capt. Kirk or country music videos.

The high ratings confirm what any political website, like The Ticket, has known for weeks -- American news consumers were very much into this election cycle, more so with each passing day.

Even on days when online traffic is normally slow, hundreds of thousands clicked their way through virtually anything of interest on the campaign and prospects.

As The Ticket reported earlier today, traffic on LATimes.com set a new one-day record above 3.36 million. And many newspapers including The Times are printing thousands of extra copies of today's editions to meet consumer demand.

As Jay Leno used to say about Doritos, "Eat all you want. We'll make more."

The Nielsen numbers showed that even when the viewing hours were expanded past midnight in the East to include the concession speech by Sen. John McCain and the acceptance speech by President-elect Barack Obama to a joyous Chicago throng, the audience didn't fall off as much as you might expect.

The number of people watching then faded only to 59.2 million in 40.5 million households.

ABC scored the best by claiming 9.1 million of the earlier audience and about 8.8 million of the later audience. NBC, CBS and Fox Broadcast came in next, followed by Univision and Telemundo. On cable, CNN was followed by Fox News, then MSNBC, BET and CNBC and BBC-America, according to the Nielsen Wire blog.

Likely some Fox News viewers called it an early night.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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