Election Night 2020 Viewership Falls 20% From 2016 to 56.9 Million

Fox News led with a record 13.6 million in primetime

election night 2020 ratings
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We still do not have a 2020 Presidential Election winner, but we can call the Nielsen ratings race for Fox News Channel.

With an average of 13.6 million primetime viewers, Fox News easily topped Election Night 2020, which drew 56.9 million viewers overall across 21 networks. While that all-in TV tally for Trump vs. Biden is a huge number, it is also 20% from 2016, when 13 networks summed 71.4 million viewers in total.

The Fox News Channel primetime figure represents a new record for an Election Night, topping CNN’s 2016 record of 13.3 million.

Cable news was dominant over broadcast last night, when CNN finished second overall with an average of 9.1 million viewers between the hours of 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. MSNBC finished in third place with 7.3 million viewers.

Fox News was also No. 1 in the key news demographic, adults 25-54. The cable news channel didn’t just win primetime outright, it also topped the 6 p.m. ET – 3 a.m. ET window, which was pretty much all the presidential race.

With updated Nielsen numbers now in for the broadcast networks, we can confidently say that ABC was No. 1 among its free over-the-air competition on Tuesday, averaging 6.1 million primetime viewers. NBC had 5.6 million, CBS drew 4.3 million and Fox’s broadcast network got 3.3 million.

We do not yet have final Nielsen numbers for Spanish-Language broadcast networks Univision and Telemundo. In earlier-available data, which is not adjusted for time zones, Univision had 1.8 million viewers and Telemundo got 1.4 million. We’re also still waiting for Nielsen statistics for PBS and possibly a handful of relatively small cable channels that got in on the presidential race.

Back on cable, Fox Business Network chipped in an average of 647,000 primetime viewers last night. CNBC settled for 117,000.

When all was said and done, counting 13 networks, Election Night 2016 drew 71.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen, which was 4.6 million more than 2012 but down 100,000 viewers from the recorded high in 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected to the highest office in the country and 71.5 million Americans tuned in to the historic moment.

Those 13 networks were ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, TV One and Lifetime. For 2020, it was ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, CNBC, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Estrella, NBCLX, PBS, BET, BET Her, CNNe, Newsmax, Newsy, VICE and WGNA.

Four years ago, CNN scored what was then the most Election Night viewers in cable news history with 13.3 million people tuning in from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. That period didn’t even technically cover when the election was called for Trump around 2:30 a.m. ET. Fox News landed 12.1 million viewers, NBC had that above-mentioned 12 million flat.

Like 2016, 13 networks also aired election coverage in 2012, though they were not these exact same channels. The Obama reelection coverage, tallying 66.8 million total viewers (anyone aged 2 or older), came from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Current TV and TV One.

In 2008, a record 14 channels covered Election Night: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, Telemundo, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, BBC America, BET, TV One and WGNA.

Four years prior, when George W. Bush defeated John Kerry to earn a second term, *just* 55.1 million viewers tuned in to Election Night coverage across ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. That was down from 2000 when 61.6 million people watched across those same six networks PLUS Fox’s broadcast channel found out Bush following in his father’s footsteps by beating Al Gore.


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