Split screen coverage by CNN shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Split screen coverage by CNN shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

CNN had the most-watched prime-time presidential election coverage in cable television history, topping its broadcast competition, according to live-plus-same-day figures released by Nielsen Tuesday.

CNN averaged 13.28 million viewers. Fox News Channel finished second, averaging 12.118 million viewers, followed by NBC, which averaged 11.219 million, ABC, which averaged 8.64 million, CBS, which averaged 8.142 million, and MSNBC, which averaged 5.947 million.

CNN has been in operation since 1980.

The final hour of CNN’s prime-time election coverage, which aired from 10-11 p.m. on last Tuesday in the Eastern time zone and 7-8 p.m. in the Pacific time zone, averaged 14.045 million viewers, the most for any prime-time election segment. It was also the most-watched cable television program between Nov. 7 and Sunday and sixth overall.

(Fox News Channel had two hourlong election segments that drew more viewers, but both aired after prime-time ended in the Eastern time zone. Its segment from midnight-1 a.m. Wednesday was the week’s most-watched cable program, averaging 15.422 million viewers.)

Despite its election night success, CNN was second behind Fox News Channel in the race to be the week’s most-watched cable network. Fox News Channel averaged 4.772 million viewers for its prime-time programming for the week and CNN 3.15 million

Prime-time viewership among the 13 cable and broadcast networks providing election coverage averaged 71.428 million, a 6.9 percent increase over the 66.84 million average for the 2012 election.

The combination of the most-watched election coverage among the broadcast networks and the most-watched prime-time NFL Week 10 game since 1998 gave NBC its first weekly victory during the official television season since March 7-13 when “Little Big Shots” aired its preview and premiere episodes.

NBC averaged 8.44 million viewers for the week. CBS averaged 8 million viewers to finish second for the third consecutive week after winning each of first five weeks. ABC was third, averaging 6.01 million viewers.

Fox averaged 5.46 million viewers to finish fourth following its back-to- back weekly ratings victories when it aired the World Series. Fox had finished fourth among the major broadcast networks for 28 consecutive weeks before its back-to-back victories.

Fox was bolstered by a 48-minute runover into prime time of its afternoon NFL coverage. The runover is not considered a separate program, but is included in the weekly average.

Fox’s 12-minute NFL postgame show “The OT” that followed the runover was second for the week, averaging 18.557 million viewers.

Fox’s most-watched program outside of its football coverage was the hip- hop drama “Empire,” 24th for among the week’s broadcast and cable programs, averaging 8.151 million viewers.

The week’s most-watched program was NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, which averaged 22.513 million, the most for an NFL Week 10 prime-time game since the Nov. 9, 1998, “Monday Night Football” game on ABC between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers averaged 22.54 million.

Second for the week was the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes,” which devoted its entire broadcast to the first post-election interview with President-elect Donald J. Trump and his family, and averaged 20 million viewers, its most since Jan. 17.

NBC broadcast 20 hours, 54 minutes of prime-time programming for ratings purposes, CBS 22 hours, ABC 21 hours, 42 minutes and Fox 16 hours, 54 minutes.

The week’s most-watched Spanish-language prime-time program was Univision’s coverage of the U.S.-Mexico FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier which averaged 4.053 million viewers to finish 75th overall.

Long-time leader Univision returned to the top among Spanish-language networks, averaging 2.21 million viewers. Telemundo, last week’s leader, was second, averaging 1.69 million.

UniMas was third, averaging 460,000 viewers, followed by Estrella TV, which averaged 260,000, and Azteca America, which averaged 80,000.

ABC’s “World News Tonight with David Muir” was the most-watched network nightly newscast for eighth consecutive week, averaging 8.257 million viewers. The “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” was second, averaging 8.149 million.

The “CBS Evening News” was third, as it has been throughout Scott Pelley’s more than five years as anchor, averaging 6.683 million.

The week’s 10 most-watched prime-time programs were NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”; CBS’ “60 Minutes”; Fox’s 12-minute NFL postgame show, “The OT”; NBC’s 11-minute “Sunday Night Football” kickoff show; CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”; the third and second prime-time hours of CNN’s “Election Night in America”; the third and second prime-time hours of Fox News Channel’s “America’s Election Headquarters”; and the first prime-time hour of CNN’s “Election Night in America.”

—City News Service

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