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Fox News scores a win in New Hampshire but cable news ratings drop from Iowa

Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network for results of the New Hampshire presidential primaries on Tuesday with 4.17 million viewers.

The audience level fell short of the high FNC set for primary or caucus coverage on Feb. 1, when 4.46 million viewers tuned in to the network for the results in Iowa.

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FNC topped CNN on Tuesday, which averaged 2.72 million viewers in prime time (8 to 11 p.m. Eastern) and MSNBC's 1.74 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen.

FNC also scored a narrow victory among 25-to-54-year-olds -- the group advertisers seek the most. FNC averaged 991,768 in the demographic compared with 950,610 for CNN and 493,692 for MSNBC. CNN's Iowa caucus coverage had topped Fox News in the category.

Overall, 8.63 million viewers were tuned in to the three major cable news networks for the New Hampshire results, compared with 10.16 million who watched the Iowa numbers come in.

The first-in-the-nation primary lacked the drama that likely drove viewer interest in the Iowa caucuses -- where Sen. Ted Cruz scored a surprise victory over Donald Trump on the Republican side while Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders were deadlocked until Clinton was declared the winner the following day.

On Tuesday, all three cable news networks were able to call the primary winners -- Trump and Sanders -- at 8 p.m. Eastern time, right after the polls closed in New Hampshire. News organizations are able to base such early calls on exit polling of voters done during the day.

Still, all three networks saw substantial gains over the audience levels for New Hampshire primary coverage in 2012. There was only a competitive race on the Republican side during that presidential election cycle.

CNN was up most with a 145% gain over 2012. Fox News grew by 86% and MSNBC was up 66%.

FNC's coverage was anchored by Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly. CNN's coverage was led by Wolf Blitzer. MSNBC's anchor team consisted of Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews.

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