Early debate numbers are so-so

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Early indications from the broadcast networks point to a McCain-Obama debate that didn't set the world afire ratings-wise.

Data released over the weekend by Nielsen Media Research showed Friday's debate not only didn't break any ratings records, but it also probably didn't come close to matching the first presidential debate between Sen. John Kerry and President Bush on Sept. 30, 2004. Friday's debate averaged a 34.7 combined household rating, Nielsen Media Research said. It's down compared to the 39.4 household rating for Bush-Kerry.

It is higher than the first debates in 2000 and 1996, however.

It's possible but not very likely that things will change today when Nielsen Media Research releases its final ratings data.

ABC averaged a 7.1 household rating/11 share compared to NBC's 6.2/10, CBS' 5.0/8 and Fox's 3.1/5. The debate ran many other places, including the Spanish-language networks and of course the English-language cable news channels, but reliable ratings weren't immediately available. PBS said Saturday that it averaged a 1.7 rating, which wasn't included in the Nielsen total.

The ratings run counter to what pundits and even the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes them, had predicted Friday before the debate began. On the other hand, Friday night isn't known for its TV viewing, and the first debate in 2004 occurred on a Thursday. (partialdiff)
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