Mike Hosking wins the election debate ratings battle
Mike Hosking has won the battle for election debate ratings.
Both televised election debates hosted by Hosking out-rated those hosted by his contemporaries Corin Dann and Patrick Gower.
Hosking hosted TVNZ's first leaders debate on August 31, and its third and final leaders debate on Wednesday night.
The Nielsen ratings for the third debate show New Zealanders might be suffering from election fatigue, with more than 100,000 fewer viewers tuning in for the third debate than the first.
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Nonetheless TVNZ is hailing its third leaders debate as a ratings success. More than 1 million people aged 5 and over tuned in for at least one minute of the debate, according to Nielsen numbers provided by TVNZ.
The show's average audience in the demographic of viewers aged over 5 was 643,000. The first debate had an average audience of 784,000.
Both debates out-rated the Patrick Gower-hosted Newshub leaders debate on channel Three, which had an average audience of 508,000 aged 5 and over.
The lowest-rated televised debate of this election cycle was TVNZ 1's multi-party debate hosted by Corin Dann, which had an average audience of 479,000.
Wednesday's final leaders debate rated better than the 2014 election's last head-to-head, which had an average audience of 602,900.
Hosking's role as debate host was under scrutiny before his first debate because he was alleged to have conservative political leanings. A petition asking TVNZ to remove him as host was signed by nearly 60,000 people.
TVNZ head of news and current affairs John Gillespie said the network had a "huge response" to its election coverage, and he was looking forward to a "massive news day" on Saturday.
"The Election appears to be on a bit of a knife-edge and it showed in last night's intense debate. We've seen a huge response as so many viewers turn to 1 News on all platforms," he said.
"The interest isn't abating and it feels like the election could be anyone's."