ABC WINS ON ELECTION NIGHT

The election is over, and the vote that really matters to broadcasters and their advertisers is in. And the winner is ... ABC, which averaged 13.1 million viewers in primetime for its coverage anchored by Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos -- but that figure represented only 18 percent of the total 71.5 million viewers who watched the results on the major broadcast and cable networks (versus 55.1 million in 2004) -- and that doesn't include the unknown number of viewers who tuned in to PBS or those who accessed streaming live video on the Internet or the 3 million who viewed the one-hour election-night special on Comedy Central featuring Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Several TV columnists made the case today (Thursday) that the biggest winners may have been the cable news networks, which made significant gains from the 2004 elections. CNN averaged 12.3 million viewers in primetime, nearly twice its 2004 tally, and came in second only to ABC for the night. Fox News, which led all cable news outlets in 2004, dropped in the rankings, but its total of 9 million viewers was up 12 percent over the 8 million who tuned in four years ago. MSNBC saw the biggest ratings boost, rising to 5.9 million viewers from 2.8 million in 2004 -- a whopping 111 percent rise. However, its success may have come at the expense of its sibling broadcast network NBC, whose numbers dropped to 12 million from 15.2 million in 2004, when coverage was anchored by Tom Brokaw. Brian Williams took over this year. CBS's coverage, fronted by Katie Couric, attracted 7.8 million viewers, an 18-percent drop from the 9.5 million who watched the Dan Rather-anchored coverage in 2004.

CNN HAS ITS BIGGEST NIGHT EVER

If coverage of the election results past primetime up to the concession speech by John McCain and victory address by Barack Obama after midnight is taken into account, CNN was the clear winner with an average of 13.3 million viewers for the entire night, according to Nielsen figures. ABC dipped to second with 12.5 million viewers, followed by NBC with 11.9 million. Fox News, which is the preferred network of Republicans, saw its audience drop significantly to 8.1 million. CBS's slid slightly to 7.5 million. In a statement, CNN also boasted that its primetime ratings represented the highest in its entire 28-year history, and its website, CNN.com, delivered 30 million unique visitors on election day, the most in its history. Millions more tuned in Wednesday and today (Thursday) to watch Sen. Obama's acceptance speech. (4.8 million viewed the speech on non-news sites during the first 24 hours after it was first uploaded, according to the video measurement service Visible Measures.) However, if all those numbers for the U.S. election seem impressive, several columnists reminded that they pale compared with the 97.5 million viewers who watched February's Super Bowl -- on a single network.

SYNDICATED DRAMA IS FIRST FOR ITUNES

Legend of the Seeker, which had its on-air debut last week, has become the first syndicated television show to become available for downloading from Apple's iTunes Store. Each episode will sell for $1.99 for standard-definition versions and $2.99 for high-definition. A free half-hour preview is now available for downloading from Apple's iTunes website and also from the websites of each of the stations carrying it. Legend of the Seeker marks the entry of ABC Studios, formerly known as Touchstone Television, into syndicated TV.

TURKEY DENOUNCES ITV DOCUMENTARY

A British documentary in which Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, exposes horrendous conditions in state-run homes for mentally ill children in Turkey has been denounced by the Turkish government. According to published reports, the documentary, which is scheduled to air tonight (Thursday) on ITV, shows children tied to beds or lying in the halls of mental institutions. However, Nimet Cubukcu, Turkey's Minister for Women and Family Affairs, told the London Independent that the government believes that Ferguson had timed the release of the documentary to coincide with Turkey's application to join the European union. "It is absolutely clear that Sarah Ferguson is ill-intentioned and is trying to launch a smear campaign against Turkey," Cubukcu said. adding, "The result of our investigations into the allegations so far suggests that there is nothing we need to be ashamed [of]."