Obama Win Sets Viewing Records, per Nielsen

NEW YORK Election Night TV coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential race drew more than 71 million average viewers Tuesday night, according to Nielsen data.

In terms of households, 47.5 million tuned in. (The 2000 race drew just shy of 41 million.)

Both the average viewer and household numbers set new Election Night records.

(Related: “News Sites Reap Election Day Rewards.”)

Live news coverage was carried on both broadcast and cable networks, including Spanish-language networks: ABC, CBS, FoxBroadcast, NBC, Telemundo, Univision, BBC America, BET, CNBC, CNN, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, and TV One.

Nielsen’s audience estimates include prime-time coverage, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., in the Eastern and Central time zones and live in Mountain and Pacific time zones.

Audience estimates for the 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. time frame, which featured Sen. McCain’s concession speech and President-Elect Obama’s speech in Chicago, are also included.

In 2004, almost 59.2 million viewers tuned in between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. to watch Election Night TV coverage, as President Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry to win reelection.

On Election Night in 2000, almost 61.6 million viewers (excluding viewers of Spanish-language networks) watched prime-time TV coverage of President Bush and former Vice President Al Gore’s embattled election contest.

Nielsen’s broadcast audience numbers include a combination of national and local news coverage.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.