Election night TV viewership slumps 20% from 2016 as weary voters tune out from bitter campaign’s finale
- About 56.9M people watched this year’s coverage versus 71.4M in 2016
- TV ratings do not include online platforms, which are more popular now
- Fox News’ election coverage led all networks with 14.1M prime-time viewers
Viewership of election night news coverage was down 20 percent this year from 2016, with many voters appearing to tune out after the long and bitter campaign.
Nielsen figures showed that roughly 56.9 million people watched this year’s prime-time coverage across 21 networks, down from 71.4 million people watching in 2016, when Donald Trump upset Democrat Hillary Clinton.
This year’s drawn-out presidential election returns may have proven frustrating for viewers, with the winner still unclear more than a day after polls closed.
The TV ratings do not include viewership via online platforms, which have jumped in popularity.
People watch a broadcast of Fox News showing presidential election returns at an election night watch party in The Villages, Florida on Tuesday. Viewership of election night news coverage was down 20 percent this year from 2016
This year, Fox News Channel’s election coverage led all networks with 14.1 million prime-time viewers, ratings data showed.
It came on a night the network riled Trump and some of his supporters by being the first to call Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden.
CNN finished second with 9.4 million from 8pm to 11pm EST, followed by MSNBC with 7.6 million, according to the Nielsen ratings agency.
Fox News, the network owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp, and whose commentators often promote Trump’s agenda, stood alone for three hours with its projection that Biden would win Arizona.
As of midnight on Wednesday, the winner of the presidency remained undecided while vote counts continued in a number of key states.
Fox News was also more than five hours ahead of CNN on projecting Biden would take Virginia, and hours in front on other states.
Bartender Sam Schilke watches election results on television at a bar Tuesday in Portland, Oregon. This year, Fox News Channel’s election coverage led all networks
It beat the Associated Press by 90 minutes on saying Trump would win the battleground state of Florida. None of those calls have been disputed.
‘Whether they were premature or right on time, the fact of the matter is that they were calling the races in the way races should be called, instead of through the lens that Trump would prefer,’ said Frank Sesno, a former CNN correspondent and director of strategic initiatives at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. ‘That’s their job.’
Fox News’ approach angered some Trump backers. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey were among those saying Fox News acted too quickly.
Fox News correspondent John Roberts said on air that the Trump campaign was ‘livid.’
As the night unfolded, Fox News’ average audience topped rivals in prime time and into the early morning hours of Wednesday, according to Nielsen data.
From 6pm to 3am EST, Fox News averaged 10.9 million viewers, compared with 7.0 million for CNN. Fox News’ Arizona call came shortly before 11.30pm EST.
Fox News already had irritated Trump and some supporters in recent months.
‘The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!’ Trump tweeted in April, angered that an anchor had grilled an administration official in a tough interview.