Final debate ratings: Overall audience down, Fox News scores its highest ratings ever

The Hollywood Reporter has ratings information for the final presidential debate:

After nearly matching its returns for the 2008  vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden (11.1 million viewers) last week, the 16-year-old network hit nearly 11.5 million during its 90-minute coverage of President Obama and Mitt Romney’s final matchup. Compared with the rest of cable, FNC topped the combined haul of CNN’s 5.8 million total viewers and MSNBC’s third-place showing of 4.1 million.

That number also gives it an early victory over broadcast competition in CBS (8.4 million viewers), though it still was outmatched by NBC’s dominant 12.4 million and ABC’s 11.7 million.

As with the second debate, ABC and NBC got a boost going into the debate from their popular 8 P.M. entertainment programming.  The final ratings from all networks aren’t in yet, but it looks like the final debate drew a somewhat smaller audience than the first two.  On the other hand, it might have exceeded expectations, since it was widely assumed more viewers would abandon the debate to watch sporting events.