This story has been updated. Although last night's presidential election was decided early--with seemingly less drama than the close races in 2004 and 2000--overall TV viewership hit historic highs.
Total TV viewership came to 71.4 million viewers among 14 broadcast and cable networks. That figure betters the 59 million viewers among 10 networks in 2004, and the 61.5 million viewers among 7 networks in 2000.
The election was called on virtually all broadcast and cable networks at 11 p.m. Eastern time. Analysts speculated that this might have diminished overall results because of viewership among West Coast viewers, who may have just started to watch election coverage at 8 p.m., when prime time begins.
But that didn't happen.
Collectively, the big four networks grabbed a Nielsen 38 million viewers, versus 35.4 million four years ago. This was far less than the 50.1 million for the broadcast network in the super-close George Bush-Al Gore presidential election in 2000.
Cable news networks, which had built up a substantial momentum during the campaign with record viewership, made big gains this election. While ABC was the best-watched network in prime time with 13.1 million viewers, down from four years ago at 13.2 million, CNN came in at a surprising second place with 12.3 million--almost doubling its audience of four years ago.
NBC came in at third place with 12.0 million, up from 10.6 million four years ago. After NBC, cable network Fox News Channel came in at 9 million--up over its 8.1 million in 2004. CBS followed with 7.8 million, down from 9.5 million in 2004.
MSNBC was sixth with 5.9 million--almost doubling its viewership versus four years ago, when it was at 2.8 million. The Fox broadcast network had 5.1 million, then Univision (4.0 million); Telemundo (790,000); BET (438,000); CNBC (391,000); BBC America (224,000); WGN America (115,000), and TV One (88,000).
Among 18-49 viewers for the broadcast networks this election, NBC landed in first place, narrowly topping ABC with a 4.8/10 to a 4.7/10 score. CBS was in a distant third place at 2.6/5 among 18-49 viewers. Fox followed with 2.3/5, and Univision earned a 1.9/4 among 18-49 audience.
The CW went ahead with originals of "90210" and "Privileged" earning an average 2.64 million viewers and a 1.3/3 among the 18-49 crowd. Among its core 18-34 audience, it grabbed a steady 1.8/4 average for both shows.
In 2004, the four broadcast networks, plus cable networks MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, had a combined household rating of 34.5 and 37.9 million households. That was down from the 2000 election, which saw a 40.2 rating and 40.9 million households.