Convention Ratings: Democrats a Bigger Draw Than Republicans; MSNBC Pulls Off a Cable Surprise

Sep 6, 2012  •  Post A Comment

The Democratic National Convention is tracking ahead of the recent Republican National Convention in television viewership, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“An estimated 26.2 million people tuned in to watch the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen — 17.7% more than watched the Republican convention last week,” the newspaper reports. Tuesday night’s telecast from Charlotte, N.C., was headlined by first lady Michelle Obama.

“A week ago Tuesday, the first night of coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., 22.3 million people watched Ann Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,” the report notes. “Last Thursday, the final night of the Tampa convention, 33 million people watched Clint Eastwood and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.”

Among the nine networks carrying the hour of prime-time convention coverage on Tuesday night, NBC pulled in the largest audience with an average of about 5.3 million viewers. MSNBC was second — and first among cable news networks — with 4.11 million. The next four: CNN (3.9 million), CBS (3.2 million), ABC (2.6 million) and Fox News (2.4 million).

MSNBC’s win over cable news rivals CNN and Fox News marked the network’s first-ever convention victory, The Huffington Post reports. The third-place finish for Fox News — usually the leader among cable news channels — was in contrast to the first night of the Rebublican Convention, when Fox drew 6.87 million viewers.

Most networks saw ratings drop this week from the turnout in 2008 — with MSNBC the one exception, growing its ratings from four years ago.

“The disparity between MSNBC and Fox News could be chalked up to simple partisanship,” The Huffington Post reports. “Democrats are more likely to watch MSNBC during the Democratic gathering, and Republicans are more likely to watch Fox News during the Republican gathering — and to stay away from watching the DNC altogether. But it’s also a reflection of the success MSNBC has had in solidifying its brand as the go-to network for progressive and Democratic viewers.”

MSNBC President Phil Griffin was elated by the results, telling HuffPost: "To be number one on a big night, where we’ve never been number one before, to beat a couple of networks, to beat CNN, to beat Fox, it’s just a credit to everybody here. It’s exciting. And it’s hopefully going to launch us the rest of the year and into years ahead."

Preliminary numbers for Wednesday’s convention coverage on the broadcast networks show that NBC’s broadcast of the season-opening NFL game had an impact, TVbytheNumbers.com reports.

Nielsen overnights, which will be subject to substantial adjustments due to the live telecasts, had the football game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants drawing an average of 21.8 million total viewers and an 8.7 average rating in the key 18-49 demo. Wednesday’s Convention coverage on CBS pulled in 3.9 million viewers to 3.5 million on ABC, with both broadcast nets averaging a modest 0.9 rating in 18-49.

Both CBS and ABC were up from Tuesday night, but the total broadcast audience for the convention — with NBC taken out of the running — was down.


  1. So football was the clear winner, with nothing else really worth watching.

  2. How many channels aired the RNC vs. how many aired the DNC….then tell me who has the best ratings.

  3. So should we assume that in 2 weeks about 45 million people really enjoyed high dollar, highly scripted television programming even when they know the outcome.
    My…aren’t humans a curious lot?

  4. The same number of channels for both and the Dems won, even with football in the mix. What that means? My take is that the Republican convention was a disorganized and theme-less affair and generally lacked excitement. That accounted for the substantial drop off in viewership as the days wore on. The Democratic convention was well organized, had a progressive theme (in both senses of the word) and exuded excitement from the participants that squeezed out of the pixels into peoples living rooms. It was better thought out, produced and presented in every way. The only people who stopped watching after day-one were die-hard sports fans (and many of those DVRed it), people who just aren’t interested in politics, and those on the Right who were simply frightened and/or disgusted by the affair. But that’s just my opinion.

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