Unsurprisingly, Super Tuesday, the biggest voting day yet of
the 2012 election cycle was also the highest-rated, drawing nearly 5.7 million
total viewers in primetime across CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.
Per usual, Fox News Channel headed the cable pack, but it also surpassed NBC News, which entered the fray in the 10 p.m. hour with count coverage of the Republican primaries and caucuses.
FNC averaged with 2.84 million total viewers from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET), while CNN was second with 1.48 million and MSNBC third with 1.37 million, according to Nielsen data. Among the target 25-54 demo, FNC also set the primetime pace with 728,000 viewers, followed by CNN's 512,000 and MSNBC's 381,000 during the same time period.
During the 10 p.m. hour, FNC's America's Election HQ averaged 2.61 million viewers versus 2.56 million for NBC's Decision '12: Super Tuesday, 1.47 million for MSNBC's Special Coverage and 1.46 million for CNN's America's Choice, according to Nielsen data.
From a peak audience perspective, FNC posted its highest total in the 10 p.m. hour with 3 million watchers, including 804,000 in the news demo. CNN was at its highest level with 1.57 million total viewers at 9 p.m. and had its most adults 25 to 54, 564,000 of that group, during the 10 p.m. period MSNBC, meantime, was at its height at 10 p.m., tallying 1.47 million viewers and 447,000 adults 25 to 54 over that span.
The 5.7 million viewers who watched cable news in primetime
on Super Tuesday is up 22% over the approximately 4.7 million who tuned in for coverage
of the Michigan and Arizona primaries last week.
But compared to the 2008 primary cycle, viewer interest was
way down on Super Tuesday, averaging three million fewer total viewers on the
night (though that year was an open primary with both Democratic and Republican contests and no incumbent president).
Mike Reynolds (Multichannel News), contributed to this report.