TV Ratings: Super Tuesday Draws 19M Viewers, Cable Tops Broadcast

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News coverage of Super Tuesday primary voting didn't bring great returns to the broadcast networks in the early Nielsen numbers. The three main cable news channels fared better, outdrawing their over-the-air counterparts in primetime.

Coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC averaged a combined 19.09 million viewers from 8-11 p.m. ET, according to Nielsen figures. The three cable networks accounted for about 10.79 million of the total to about 8.3 million for the broadcast nets.


Fox News led the way in total viewers with 4.17 million, about 350,000 more than the 3.82 million for MSNBC. NBC averaged 2.94 million — best among the broadcast networks — followed by CNN, 2.8 million; ABC, 2.72 million; and CBS, 2.64 million.

CNN captured the most viewers in the key news demographic of adults 25-54 with 1.09 million. NBC drew 983,000 in the demo to 932,000 for Fox News and 910,000 for MSNBC. ABC (805,000) and CBS (640,000) were further back.

The cable news nets were fairly consistent with Super Tuesday in 2016 (a collective 10.96 million viewers) — thanks largely to a big gain by MSNBC. Fox News is off by about 15 percent in primetime from 4.88 million in 2016, while CNN fell by 32 percent (from 4.1 million). MSNBC, meanwhile, posted gains of 93 percent over its 1.98 million viewers in 2016. 

The broadcast networks devoted only an hour each to news coverage four years ago despite both major parties having competitive primaries. That 10 p.m. hour averaged about 14 million viewers.

Elsewhere, Fox's The Resident scored a season high in same-day total viewers (4.8 million) opposite election coverage and matched its best adults 18-49 with a 0.8. Empire began its final run of episodes with 2.46 million viewers and a 0.6 in the demo, down slightly from its last outing mid-December.

Fox led the broadcast networks in the 18-49 demo with a 0.7 rating, edging NBC's 0.6 (pending updates for the latter). ABC was third with 0.5. CBS, Telemundo and Univision tied with 0.4. The CW averaged 0.2 with a pair of reruns.

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