Fox News Dominates Debate Coverage, MSNBC Falls Below CNN

Presidential Debate 1 October 3 - H 2012
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Presidential Debate 1 October 3 - H 2012

Rebounding from recent falters in the 9 p.m. hour, Fox News Channel scored a decisive victory during last night's coverage of the presidential debate.

Its highest-rated presidential debate ever, FNC topped strong competition between 9 and 10:30 p.m. and easily beating the rest of cable news. MSNBC, which has been posting significant gains of late, actually fell below CNN in both total viewers and the key adults 25-54 demo.

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During the actual debate, 10.42 million tuned into FNC, eclipsing CNN (6.05 million) and more than double MSNBC (4.71 million). In the targeted adults 25-54, FNC won with 2.93 million. CNN was close behind with 2.37 million, and MSNBC trailed with 1.85 million.

For the entire primetime block (8 to 11 p.m.), FNC averaged 8.2 million viewers, topping CNN (4.76 million) and MSNBC (3.91 million). In the demo FNC won by healthier margins than for the 90-minutes of the debate, posting 2.16 million adults 25-54 over CNN's 1.85 million and MSNBC's 1.48 million.

Though FNC topped broadcast networks in fast affiliate ratings, final numbers have ABC, NBC and CBS topping all cable showings for the 90-minute debate.