During the 90-minute, overnight metered market ratings showed ABC with an 8.8 household figure, NBC at 7.6 and CBS at 6.3. The Fox broadcast network carried the debate and earned a 4.0. (The figures cover the top 55 markets. Houston, the 10th-largest DMA, is not included because of aftereffects from the recent hurricane.)
Overall, the overnights showed the debate had a combined 42.1 rating, with almost 40% watching on cable. That rating fell below the 45 for last week's vice-presidential debate, but topped the 34.7 for the first presidential debate.
Nielsen said the second debate likely gained viewers over the first because it was held on a Tuesday versus a Friday, when people are more likely to be out.
During the ensuing half-hour of post-debate analysis on the Big 3, ABC led with a 7.6 in households, followed by NBC at 6.5 and CBS at 5.6. Final national ratings were to be released later on Wednesday.
Drama "NCIS" drew a 9.9 at 8 p.m. on CBS, leading into debate coverage and tying ABC in the hour. NBC trailed considerably with a 4.4 for "The Biggest Loser."