For 2nd Debate, Friday Was Must-See TV Night

Times Staff Writer

The second debate between President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, was watched by nearly 47 million people, an impressive figure given the typically low TV viewing levels for Friday nights.

The town hall-style matchup, moderated by ABC News’ Charles Gibson, climbed 24% over the comparable second debate on Oct. 11, 2000, between Bush and Vice President Al Gore, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

An estimated 62.5 million viewers tuned in to the first Bush-Kerry debate on Sept. 30, making it the most-watched White House debate since 1992. But it aired on a Thursday night, when nearly two-thirds of U.S. households were watching television. Just 58% of homes with TV were using their sets Friday.


Friday’s debate started at 6 p.m. Pacific time and ran about 10 minutes over its scheduled 90-minute length. NBC’s coverage was No. 1 in the ratings (12.3 million viewers), trailed by ABC (10.3 million), CBS (8.1 million), Fox News Channel (7.1 million), Fox Broadcasting (3.8 million), CNN (3.4 million) and MSNBC (1.7 million).

PBS and C-SPAN also covered the debate, but their figures were not available.

The third and final presidential debate is scheduled for Wednesday night.