Media News

U.S. election climax drew 71.4 million TV viewers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 71 million Americans tuned in to see Tuesday’s climax to the historic U.S. presidential campaign on television, far more than watched prime-time returns from the last two White House races, figures released on Wednesday showed.

The viewer tally measured across 14 U.S. broadcast and cable networks amounted to more than half the 130 million-plus Americans thought to have voted in Tuesday’s election and surpassed the big audiences drawn by the presidential and vice presidential debates weeks ago.

Nielsen Media Research said 71.4 million viewers watched TV election coverage during the three hours between the 8 p.m. EST poll closings in many Eastern states and the declaration that Democrat Barack Obama had been elected America’s first black president.

By comparison, 59.1 million viewers across 10 television networks watched prime-time election night coverage of the 2004 presidential race, which ended with President George W. Bush’s victory over Democratic challenger John Kerry,

Some 61.5 million tuned in for the election night 2000 battle between Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

The size of Tuesday night’s average audience declined somewhat to 70.6 million when counting the additional 90 minutes that included coverage of Obama’s victory speech in Chicago and Republican Sen. John McCain’s concession speech in Arizona, Nielsen reported.

The sole vice-presidential debate in October between Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden averaged 69.9 million viewers -- the biggest audience for any nationally televised political debate in 16 years.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Steve Gorman and Todd Eastham