For many, debate was must-see TV

The second matchup between John McCain and Barack Obama proved a strong draw with television viewers Tuesday night. More than 63 million people tuned in to watch the debate, a sizable increase over the 52.4 million who watched their first forum Sept. 26.

That makes Tuesday’s Nashville event the ninth-most-watched presidential debate since Nielsen Media Research started tracking the audience in 1960. But the presidential candidates couldn’t match the interest level in their running mates, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, who garnered 69.9 million viewers Oct. 2 for their sole debate.

A dozen television networks have been airing the presidential debates live, and so far, ABC seems to be the preferred choice. For the third debate in a row, the network had a bigger audience than its broadcast and cable counterparts, averaging 13.2 million viewers.

ABC’s post-debate analysis also was the biggest draw, with an average of 9.92 million viewers.


NBC placed second with its coverage of the 90-minute forum, garnering 10.86 million viewers, while CBS had 9.44 million.

Once again, the cable networks weren’t far behind. CNN had the largest audience, averaging 9.23 million viewers, while Fox News followed with 8.77 million and MSNBC with 3.77 million.

-- Matea Gold