More than 65 million people watched Election Night returns Tuesday on the main broadcast and cable news networks.
Preliminary Nielsen Media Research estimates show ABC News, with Charles Gibson leading a team that broadcast from New York's Times Square, won bragging rights with 13.1 million prime-time viewers.
That topped CNN's 12.3 million and NBC's 12 million. CNN essentially doubled its audience from the 2004 Election Night, reflecting how cable is increasingly the go-to choice for television news. NBC had 15.2 million viewers four years ago.
Nielsen did not immediately have a full audience estimate for the countdown to Obama's win, which would also include viewers who watched returns on networks like CNBC and BET.
Just as any other Election Night, the networks had to make all that talking and all those numbers look compelling.
As it did in the nominating season with the Magic Wall, CNN once again stole the technological thunder – this time with its use of hologram photography to teleport an image of correspondent Jessica Yellin from Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago to its election center in New York.
Yellin stood in a tent in Chicago surrounded by 35 cameras that so captured and transported her image that it looked as if she was standing in the center of the CNN election headquarters talking to anchorman Wolf Blitzer.
Shortly before 11 p.m., CNN used the hologram cameras again to bring hip-hop artist will.i.am into the studio to chat with anchorman Anderson Cooper about “Yes We Can,” the viral video sensation he created for Obama.
MSNBC was slightly more old-school with its virtual-reality rotunda. There, 3-D bar graphs rose from the “marble floor” alongside the correspondent, or an electoral map appeared to be hanging from the “columns” in the background. The Baltimore Sun contributed.