Midterm Ratings: ABC News Tops the Broadcast Networks, But all are Down from 2006 Midterms

By Alex Weprin 

The final numbers from the broadcast networks are in, and just as it did in the 2006 midterm elections, ABC topped the nets when it came to election coverage. That said, the ratings for all three of the network news divisions were down sharply from 2006.

  • ABC News coverage, led by Diane Sawyer, averaged 6.8 million total viewers and 2.6 million A25-54from 9:30-11 PM.
  • NBC’s coverage, anchored by Brian Williams, drew 6.4 million total viewers and 2.9 million A25-54  from 9-11 PM
  • CBS’ coverage, anchored by Katie Couric, drew an average of 5.9 million total viewers and 2.2 million A25-54 from 10-11 PM.
  • Fox’s coverage, anchored by Shepard Smith, drew an average of 2.8 million total viewers and 1.3 million A25-54 from 9-10 PM

Interestingly, from 10-11 PM, the only hour where all three broadcasters covered the elections, CBS placed second to NBC in total viewers, while ABC slipped to a close third. ABC finished second in the core demo.

10-11 Pm ET:

  • NBC: 6.27 million total viewers, 2.79 million A25-54
  • CBS: 5.86 million total viewers, 2.19 million A25-54
  • ABC: 5.53 million total viewers, 2.25 million A25-54

None of the broadcasters were able to match the nearly 7 million total viewers averaged by Fox News Channel for the night, though it isn’t a true “apples to apples” comparison, as FNC’s coverage began at 7:50 PM ET, and ran through to 11 PM,  without any throws to local stations like the broadcasters had.

Nonetheless, the ratings are a blow to the broadcasters, which historically have led the way in election coverage. ABC’s lead-in was “Dancing With the Stars,” which was the most popular program on television that night, averaging nearly 17 million total viewers from 8-9:30 PM. CBS had “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which averaged 11 million viewers. Both networks saw substantial drop-offs once election coverage started.