The Home Stretch

Which channel do you watch on Election Night?

The Boston Globe

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Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ (seriously, on-demand cartoons are everything we need in 2020) seem to have replaced linear television in recent years, but when it comes to Election Night, the networks still rule.

On average, nearly a third of all the television sets in use in the 20 largest markets in the US were turned to broadcast networks ABC, NBC, CBS, or Fox during primetime hours on Election Night in 2016, according to ratings data from ComScore. As you would expect, the numbers dipped during the mid-term elections two years later, but they were still impressive compared to your average Tuesday night.


So what channels do Americans prefer to feed them their politics? NBC and ABC led the pack in 17 of the top 20 markets in 2016, with Fox snagging two wins, and CBS grabbing just one.

Here’s a breakdown of 2016 by market.


*Rating: The percentage of the TV universe in the market that was tuning in.

*Share: The percentage of the TV sets in the market that were in use and tuning in.

Two years later, five markets saw changes in top stations on Election Night. Houston went from NBC to ABC; Phoenix went from NBC to Fox; San Francisco went from Fox to ABC; Tampa went from Fox to NBC; and Seattle went from NBC to ABC.

The ComScore numbers didn’t include cable networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, which typically enjoy high ratings on Election Night as well. But we know that CNN led the way for much of the night, until Fox News saw a massive spike after midnight Eastern Time as it became more clear that Donald Trump was going to be the president. 


Read an important story you may have missed:


In the final stretch of the campaign, Kamala Harris has become a frequent target of Trump and his surrogates, who arguably attack her even more than Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, mispronouncing her name or using language to paint her as the “other.” But Harris is motivating the voters who could provide the fatal blow to Trump’s reelection — a diverse coalition of suburban women who see themselves in her story and have been powering Democratic victories up and down the ballot since 2016. Read more.

Women on the rise:

A review of electoral gains over the past four years shows women seized power at all levels of government, though they still haven’t come close to parity. Congress is less than one-quarter female. Even in liberal Massachusetts, female candidates' successes boosted women’s representation in the Legislature to just 29 percent. Read more.

Maine event:

If Democrats are feeling good about a big wave nationally, that wave doesn’t seem to be coming to where the tidal range is among the biggest in the country: the Pine Tree state. Read more.

Anonymous no more:

Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, has announced that he is “Anonymous,” the senior White House administration official who claimed to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart President Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations.” Read more

Where the candidates are tomorrow: 

President Trump held rallies in Bullhead City, Ariz. and Goodyear, Ariz. on Wednesday, and he has scheduled rallies in Tampa, Fla. at 1:30 p.m. and Fayetteville, N.C. at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.


Joe Biden delivered remarks on COVID-19 via livestream from Delaware Wednesday, and he’s traveling to Biden will travel to Broward County, Fla., and Tampa, Fla. on Thursday.

What the polls say:

— An ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Biden up 17 percentage points in Wisconsin, but a Marquette Law School survey taken at roughly the same time has the race much closer.

— Polls from ABC News/Washington Post and The New York Times/Siena College have Biden with a comfortable lead in Michigan.

Learn something new:

— When should we expect networks to begin calling states on Election Night? The interview with ABC News executive director of elections Dan Merkle offers some context. Listen here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.