Gross Election Ratings Come in South of 2008, NBC Tops All TV Coverage

Barack Obama Election Night Speech - H 2012
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Barack Obama Election Night Speech - H 2012

Two days after the 2012 presidential election, final broadcast network ratings solidify NBC News' win among viewers and the key demo and reveal shrunken gross viewership from four years ago.

Tuesday's Fast National numbers from Nielsen, delayed because of continued issues prompted by Hurricane Sandy, have NBC coming in on top all of broadcast and cable networks with a primetime haul of 12.01 million viewers. Fox News Channel followed with 11.45 million viewers. ABC News (10.38 million), CNN (9.25 million), CBS (7.83 million), MSNBC (4.67 million) and Fox (4.04 million) rounded out the top performers -- with additional coverage coming in from Univision (3.07 million), Telemundo (.9 million) and several much smaller networks.

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That puts primetime TV coverage of the election just a shade north of 64 million viewers, down from the 71.5 million seen in 2008. It's a modest decline, especially considering the downward trend for elections that include an incumbent president.

Topping total viewers and both the news-centric adults 25-54 (4.8 rating) and ever-desirable adults 18-49 (4.3 rating) demographics, NBC News stands as the clear winner -- but there were several other ratings victories.

CNN, cable news' perennial third-placer, proved once again its ability to pull big numbers during major news events. Though it lost primetime and the 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. block among total viewers to FNC, the network topped cable with complete seven-hour coverage that included Mitt Romney's concession and President Obama's acceptance speech. It edged past Fox News by 140,000 total viewers.

And in cable news' pivotal adults 25-54 demo, CNN won in all time periods. In primetime, CNN pulled 4.57 million adults 25-54, besting FNC's 4.45 million and MSNBC's 1.99 million. CNN held an even larger lead between 7 p.m. and midnight.

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Still, CNN's primetime coverage was down double digits from 2008 in both total viewers and adults 25-54 -- as was MSNBC's.

Fox News was the lone cable network to post growth in the time period, rising 27 percent in total viewers from 2008's 9.04 million viewers. That feat gave the network its best primetime block in network history.

Among broadcast networks, ratings were relatively more steady with 2008's performances. ABC took a 2.3 million viewer hit, losing its top ranking from the last election, but NBC and CBS both improved by very small measures. They rose 10,000 and 30,000 viewers, respectively.