VP debate shatters TV ratings record

You think anyone watched that one debate on Thursday night?

You may just be right.  Forget Obama and McCain, the American TV public seemed much more interested in the Biden - Palin showdown.

Nielsen reports that 69.9 million people tuned in for the broadcast.  PBS doesn't like to be lumped in with the mass media, and snootily does their own accounting.  They estimate some 3.5 million viewers tuned in, which brings the grand finale total to 73.4 million.

U.S. versus Canada

Speaking of snooty, a Canadian blogger named Doug Peterson was discussing the quandary he experienced on Thursday night  when faced with the choice of watching the Cubs - Dodgers game, the Canadian Prime Minister debate, or the U.S. vice presidential debate.

Contrasting the two debates, Peterson recaps:

It was almost like the barometer for success for the Prime Minister debate was who won and for the Vice-President debate, it was who would perform the least worst.

But then again, maybe he's not that off-base.  As many have surmised, including we here at The Vote, a lot of the draw was the "train wreck" factor.


The prior record for a vice presidential showdown was 1984 when Vice President Bush and Democratic nominee Geraldine Ferraro grabbed some 56.7 million viewers.

The biggest audience for a presidential or vice presidential debate was recorded in 1980 when President Carter and Ronald Reagan garnered some 80.6 million viewers.

As for the McCain - Obama debate, only a paltry 52.4 million people tuned in.  Nielsen attributes much of the difference between the numbers to the timing of the debates, apparently not factoring in the aforementioned "train wreck factor."  The presidential contest was held on a Friday while the Palin - Biden showdown was held on a Thursday.

Who watched where

Where did most people watch the debate?

ABC gets the victory with 13.1 million viewers tuning in.  NBC had 12.8 million watchers, and a tie for third ensued between CBS and FOX News with 11.1 million apiece.

TV land

In comparison to other big TV draws this year, the VP debate clobbered Beijing's opening Olympics ceremony (32.6 million) and the Oscars (32 million).

Biden's numbers

No word yet from Joe Biden if the 1929 television debate with President Roosevelt drew higher ratings.  Expect a press release.

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