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Electoral uncertainty keeps TV ratings up

By ERIC DEGGANS

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 11, 2000


The TV news industry may be wiping egg off its face over two mistaken predictions in Tuesday's election, but it hasn't kept viewers from watching in record numbers for information on the closest presidential election in history.

Both network news divisions and cable news channels saw solid ratings gains in the days after Tuesday's election, with particular viewership peaks in the morning and early evening news shows.

The NBC Nightly News led the networks in ratings Wednesday and Thursday, according to overnight ratings from Nielsen Media Research, followed by ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News.

World News Tonight notched 2 point ratings increases over averages last week on Wednesday and Thursday -- a jump of more than 1-million viewers.

The stalemate has doubled and tripled ratings at 24-hour cable news channels CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel, which all offered continuous coverage Wednesday and Thursday.

CNN led the pack among cable channels, attracting an average of 2.3-million viewers Wednesday and 1.7-million viewers Thursday, followed by MSNBC and Fox News Channel.

"We've never seen a second day (election) rating that strong," said Christa Robinson, CNN spokesperson of Wednesday's totals. "It's extraordinary."

On Wednesday, the three network morning shows posted the highest ratings in their histories, as viewers awoke to find that late-night predictions of a George W. Bush victory had been retracted and the race was too close to call.

Once again, NBC's Today show came out on top, averaging 12.5-million viewers -- the highest ever for morning television.

Local stations also saw viewership gains, with NBC affiliate WFLA-Ch. 8 topping early evening and late night news ratings on Wednesday and Thursday with ratings about 50 percent higher than last week's averages.

In late hours, Fox station WTVT-Ch. 13 was a close second over Wednesday and Thursday, followed by CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10, ABC station WFTS-Ch. 28 and cable channel Bay News 9.

The interest was a happy headache for some Internet sites, which saw record traffic bring occasional technical glitches.

CNN.com reported 4-million viewers Wednesday -- five times last week's average.

The St. Petersburg Times' Sptimes.com saw users jump from an average of 500 per second to more than 3,000 per second Friday, slowing service significantly.

The increase in traffic prompted a brief shut down of the site Friday to make sure hackers weren't at work, said Ron Dupont, general manager of web publishing at the Times.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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