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First Debate Pulls In 52.4M Viewers, Down from ‘04

The first presidential debate between Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) Friday was watched by 52.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The debate aired without commercial interruptions on 11 broadcast and cable news channels from 9 p.m.-10:38 p.m.

ABC led the broadcast networks with 11 million viewers, followed by cable news leader Fox News Channel, which attracted 8.2 million, and CBS, which pulled in 7.6 million.

NBC and CNN each averaged 7.1 million viewers, andd MSNBC was watched by 3.9 million.

The first presidential debate of the 2008 campaign did not break records. The first face-off between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004 was watched by just over 60 million viewers.