Dem debate a landslide for MSNBC


NEW YORK -- What will likely be the final debate of the Democratic primary cycle worked wonders for MSNBC, giving it the news channel's highest ratings ever.

More than 7.8 million viewers tuned in to the sometimes caustic debate between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to data released Wednesday afternoon by Nielsen Media Research. It ranked as the third-most-watched debate this election season, behind only ABC's Democratic presidential debate on the eve of the New Hampshire presidential primary in January and CNN's Kodak Theatre showdown this month.

It was far above anything else in MSNBC's 11-year history, whose previous record was 3.7 million viewers who tuned in on March 19, 2003, for the coverage of the beginning of the Iraq War. Last night's debate averaged 3.2 million viewers in the news demographic of adults 25-54. It aired from 9-10:36 p.m. ET.

The debate, which was moderated by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams and Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, aired also on NBC's broadcast affiliates in Ohio. Since it aired with the same commercials on broadcast TV and MSNBC, the 744,000 or so viewers who made it Ohio's top TV broadcast of the night were counted in MSNBC's national rating.

It beat "American Idol" by 44% in the Ohio markets, which included Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus.