Final Debate Breaks Fox News Ratings Record With 11.5 Million, Topping Cable Competition

Presidential Debate Lynn University at Table - H 2012
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Presidential Debate Lynn University at Table - H 2012

Fox News Channel won the third and final presidential debate last night, with early ratings for the cable network's coverage setting a record as its highest-rated telecast ever.

After nearly matching its returns for the 2008  vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden (11.1 million viewers) last week, the 16-year-old network hit nearly 11.5 million during its 90-minute coverage of President Obama and Mitt Romney's final matchup. Compared with the rest of cable, FNC topped the combined haul of CNN's 5.8 million total viewers and MSNBC's third-place showing of 4.1 million.

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That number also gives it an early victory over broadcast competition in CBS (8.4 million viewers), though it still was outmatched by NBC's dominant 12.4 million and ABC's 11.7 million.

In the key adults 25-54 demographic, rankings were similar to last week's. FNC posted 3.4 million viewers in the demo, with CNN (2.5 million) and MSNBC (1.7 million). All three broadcast networks eclipsed cable in the group.

For the entire night, FNC held its lead in the entire primetime block (9.1 million viewers, 2.6 million adults 25-54), though MSNBC (3.3 million viewers, 1.4 million adults 25-54) did narrow its margin of defeat to CNN (4.4 million viewers, 1.8 million adults 25-54).

After last week's big haul for the penultimate debate, FNC topped all of cable networks in total viewers for the week.