Ratings: Fox News Sets Record With Final Presidential Debate

Barack Obama-Mitt Romney showdown gives Fox News its highest-rated telecast in network's history

The final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Monday night set a record for Fox News, becoming the network's highest-rated telecast in its 16-year history, according to early numbers from Nielsen Media Research.

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Fox's coverage of the debate from 9 to 10:30 p.m. EDT pulled in 11.5 million total viewers, with 3.4 million of them in the key news demo of adults 25-54.

Also read: Debate Review: Obama Fixes Bayonet as Romney Tries to Stay Above the Fray

The network's previous highest number was split between last week's presidential debate and the 2008 vice presidential face-off between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, which had 11.1 million total viewers.

That put the network ahead of its closest cable competitor CNN by a nearly two-to-one margin in total viewers, with CNN taking in 5.8 million total viewers. (In the demo, the disparity was less severe, with CNN drawing 2.5 million viewers in the demo.)

MSNBC drew third place for Monday night's debate, with 4 million total viewers and 1.7 million in the demo.

Fox had drawn 10.4 million and 11.1 million total viewers for the first two presidential debates, respectively.

Fox News' total viewership put it within striking distance of NBC and ABC, which amassed 12.4 million and 11.7 million total viewers for Monday night's debate, and beat out CBS's debate coverage, which grabbed 8.4 million total viewers. The network's debate coverage also bested Monday night's formidable sports competition, including "Monday Night Football" on ESPN and Game 7 of the MLB championship on Fox's broadcast network.

Last week, Fox News notched another ratings victory, landing most-watched honors for the week in basic cable in both primetime and total day, landing ahead of ESPN and USA Network. Not an easy feat, given the competition from the NFL season and MLB playoffs.