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A midterm election that ran counter to a lot of the media narrative leading up to it proved to be a smaller TV draw Tuesday.
Per Nielsen, about 22.2 million people watched election coverage in primetime on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and NBC. That’s down by 32 percent from 2018, when those six outlets averaged a combined 32.5 million viewers in primetime. The total across 12 outlets — also including Telemundo, Univision, CNN, Fox Business, Newsmax and NewsNation — was 25.43 million, off 30 percent from 36.11 million across 11 channels four years ago, per Nielsen.
It’s also worth noting that primetime in the eastern half of the country ended with control of Congress still an open question, defying the idea of a Republican wave that pundits across the news spectrum had predicted. As of publication time Wednesday, Republicans had picked up a few House seats and were forecast to have a narrow majority, but the Senate was undecided.
Fox News led the night in both total viewers (7.42 million) and the key news demographic of adults 25-54 (1.89 million viewers in that age range). It was down about 5 percent from its 2018 viewer average (7.8 million) and more in adults 25-54 (-21 percent from 2.4 million in 2018), but held up better than its cable news and broadcast counterparts.
ABC finished second with 3.31 million viewers, off 38 percent from four years ago. MSNBC (3.21 million viewers) fell by 32 percent, and NBC (3.11 million) by 45 percent. CNN (2.61 million) dropped by almost half compared to four years ago, while CBS (2.56 million) slid by a third.
Those five outlets fared even worse among adults 25-54, each dropping by at least 45 percent.
Among other networks, Univision averaged 1.29 million viewers for two hours of coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Telemundo, also with two hours of news, came in at 601,000. Fox Business averaged 629,000 viewers with a simulcast of Fox News’ coverage. Newsmax averaged 572,000 over five hours beginning at 8 p.m.
Nov. 9, 3:25 p.m.: Updated with final ratings for election coverage.
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