CNN trumped the other cable news networks during election coverage from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m., with 8.8 million viewers, more than any of its rivals.
While advertisers typically focus on the prime-time hours between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., much of the action Tuesday night occurred when networks began calling Ohio, and the election, in the 11 p.m. hour. Mitt Romney's concession speech came around 1 a.m. Eastern, followed by Barack Obama's victory speech around 2 a.m.
Fox News was a close second for the night from 7 p.m. through 2 a.m. with 8.7 million viewers. MSNBC had 4.6 million.
Fox News, normally a strong No. 1 among cable news in prime time, won Tuesday night in prime time as well. It averaged 11.5 million viewers from 8 p.m. through 11 p.m., its highest prime-time viewership in history. It was also the only cable news network to see an increase in viewership from the 2008 election, when 9 million viewers tuned in.
CNN brought in 9.3 million prime-time viewers, 25% fewer than in 2008, while MSNBC lagged with 4.7 million prime-time viewers, down 21% from the previous election.
Among viewers from 25 to 54 years old, CNN placed first in both the 7 p.m.-through-2 a.m. window and, narrowly, the 8 p.m.-through-11 p.m. slot.
NBC News was the first to call Ohio in favor of Mr. Obama at about 11:11 p.m., apparently giving him enough electoral votes to secure re-election.
The pivotal 11 p.m. hour saw CNN draw 10.8 million viewers overall, compared with 10.1 million for Fox News, and 5.3 million 25-to-54-year-olds, compared with 4.4 million for Fox News.
CNN's performance provides a much-needed boost for the network, which usually places third behind Fox News and MSNBC. The network is searching for a new leader after its longtime president, Jim Walton, said he will retire by the end of the year.
Fox News's peak came between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., when it averaged 11.8 million viewers.