71.4 Million Viewers Tuned in to Watch Election Coverage Last Night

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Photo: Keith Bedford/Boston Globe via Getty Images

The 2016 election season kicked off over a year ago with record ratings for the first Republican primary debate — and it ended last night with more ratings milestones. According to Nielsen, a whopping 13.3 million viewers tuned in to CNN between 8 and 11 p.m. EST on Tuesday, more than any other individual broadcast or cable channel last night and the biggest-ever Election Night audience for a cable network. CNN was way up from its 2012 numbers (9.3 million) and slightly ahead of its own previous record of 12.3 million in 2008. Fox News took the silver in the overall prime-time race, with 12.1 million, but also scored the most-watched single hour of the night: 15.4 million tuned to Fox from midnight to 1 a.m., just as it started to become clear Donald Trump was going to be elected president. And with Lester Holt anchoring his first-ever night of election coverage, NBC was easily the most-watched broadcast network, with 11.2 million prime-time viewers. If you add in the 5.9 million viewers who watched the Peacock-owned MSNBC, NBC News had a combined audience of just over 17 million viewers on Tuesday, giving it the biggest audience of any TV news organization. ABC (9.2 million) came in fourth for the night, while CBS earned 8.1 million viewers. Overall, 71.4 million viewers tuned into election coverage during prime time, up from the 66.8 million for the Barack Obama–Mitt Romney finale in 2012, just shy of the record 71.5 million who caught Obama’s 2008 victory over John McCain.