Final Presidential Debate Drew 59.2 Million TV Viewers

Last night’s final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney averaged 59.2 million television viewers, including a record 11.5 million on cable’s Fox News.

Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC drew 12.4 million viewers, the most of any broadcast or cable outlet, according to Nielsen data released by the networks. The debate, held in Boca Raton, Florida, and moderated by CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, was the highest-rated telecast ever for Fox News, the 16-year-old cable channel owned by New York-based News Corp. (NWSA)

The final debate faced competition from football and a baseball playoff game, showing a drop-off from the 65.6 million who tuned in to last week’s second debate. President Obama, a Democrat, kept Republican Romney on the defensive on foreign policy, the topic of last night’s session. His rival worked to criticize the incumbent’s leadership while endorsing most major actions he has taken.

The 90-minute debate, carried live on 10 TV networks and delayed on Comcast’s Telemundo, exceeded the viewership of the final presidential debate four years ago between Obama and U.S. Senator John McCain, which averaged 56.5 million viewers, Nielsen said today on its website.

Football, Baseball

News Corp.’s Fox broadcast network carried the Major League Baseball playoff in which the San Francisco Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the World Series. That game drew 8.1 million viewers, Nielsen said.

On cable, Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN aired “Monday Night Football,” in which 10.7 million saw the Chicago Bears top the Detroit Lions 13-7.

The candidates’ first two meetings this year ranked among the 10 most-watched presidential debates since 1976, according to Nielsen. The first debate on Oct. 3 drew 67.2 million viewers.

Coverage on Disney’s ABC last night averaged 11.7 million viewers, and CBS (CBS) drew an audience of 8.44 million, according to Nielsen data.

Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s CNN drew 5.81 million viewers and Comcast’s MSNBC attracted 4.06 million, according to the data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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