CBS’ 60 Minutes Brings in Record Audience for Obama

Barack Obama’s first televised post-election interview gave Sunday night’s 60 Minutes its biggest audience in at least nine years.

The CBS News program was seen by 24.5 million viewers and earned a 6.4 preliminary adults 18-49 rating. That marks the show’s largest viewership since 1999.

Veteran correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed Obama about a range of domestic and foreign policy issues in the show’s opening 15-minute segment, then he spoke to Obama alongside his wife, Michelle, for two more segments covering how the election has impacted their family.

Obama said the government should help the U.S. auto industry and reiterated his plan to pull troops out of Iraq, though the president-elect largely refused to answer questions about his cabinet choices, saying only that announcements would be made “soon.” Although Kroft asked significant issue-oriented questions, he also delved into territory that some viewers might consider frivolous — such as the oft-discussed first family’s dog acquisition plans and college football.

60 Minutes has been on a ratings roll this season. Last week’s episode interviewing Obama’s top advisers gave the program its highest audience in a year. With Sunday’s episode, the 40-year-old news magazine will likely be the most-watched program for the second week in a row. Even with the record-setting preliminary numbers, CBS expects Minutes to get even higher ratings tomorrow when the nationals are released (some time zones aired the lower-rated The Amazing Race during part of the Minutes hour).

The 60 Minutes boost wasn’t enough to put CBS over the top for the evening, however. NBC still won with Sunday Night Football (17 million, 6.5), Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, and pregame shows.

CBS was second with Minutes, followed by Race (12.2 million, 3.5), Cold Case (12 million, 2.9) and The Unit (9.8 million, 2.5).

ABC was third with some NASCAR lead-in going into Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (10.2 million, 3.4), Desperate Housewives (16.6 million, 6.1) and Brothers & Sisters (10.1 million, 3.7). ABC’s shows were on par, with Housewives up slightly from last week.

Fourth-place Fox’s was also largely unchanged from last week, airing The Simpsons (8.5 million, 3.9), King of the Hill (7 million, 3.2), Family Guy (8.5 million, 4.2) and American Dad (6.8 million, 3.2). The CW was on par (averaging 600,000, 0.2).