October 12, 2012 9:03am PT by Michael O'Connell
TV Ratings: Early Debate Returns Don't Rival Sarah Palin in 2008, 'Beauty and the Beast' Opens Well
Though last week's fast affiliate ratings proved to be an unreliable indicator of which broadcast net actually topped in its debate coverage, early returns to give Thursday's one-off showdown between Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan to NBC News. The figures, none of which have been adjusted to consider time zones yet, unsurprisingly show double digit dips from when Biden went up against Sarah Palin in 2008.
Buoyed by a strong lead from the night's top scripted performers, CBS News averaged a 2.2 rating with adults 18-49 and 8.4 million viewers during its coverage of the 90-minute debate. Analysis averaged a 1.6 in the demo. The network's outings at 8 p.m., while dominant, were both down from last week. The Big Bang Theory dropped seven tenths of a point to a 4.2 rating with adults 18-49 and Two and a Half Men was down two tenths to a 3.4 in the demo. CBS averaged a 2.7 adults rating and 9.4 million viewers.
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Fox was the only network to see its Vice Presidential Debate fast nationals grow from 2008, up a tenth of a point to a 2.0 adults rating -- though Fox's Nashville affiliate did carry Thursday's NFL game. Analysis pulled a 1.4 adults rating. The X Factor was down three tenths of a point for a 2.9 rating with adults 18-49, giving the network an average 2.4 in the demo and 6.8 million viewers for the night.
Driven by dominant news coverage (a 2.3 adults rating for the actual debate and a 1.8 for analysis), NBC placed third for the night in the demo. 30 Rock was even with the premiere's 1.4 rating with adults 18-49, though Up All Night dropped 14 percent to a 1.2 in the demo. NBC averaged a 1.9 rating with 18-49-ers and 5.7 million viewers.
The Last Resort dropped 16 percent to a 1.6 rating with adults 18-49 on ABC. And ABC News, which won the first presidential debate in nationals, pulled a 1.9 adults rating for the debate and a 1.4 for analysis. The network averaged a 1.7 rating with adults 18-49 and 6.9 million viewers.
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The CW's figures are also likely impacted by football preemptions in Pittsburgh. That said, The Vampire Diaries opener was up seven percent from last year to a 1.6 rating with adults 18-49, topping NBC and tying ABC in the hour. The premiere of Beauty and the Beast debuted even with last year's debut of The Secret Circle in that same time slot. It pulled a 1.3 adults rating and 3.2 million viewers. The CW averaged a 1.4 adults rating for the night and 3.3 million viewers.
Univision also posted a 1.4 rating with 18-49-ers.