CNN’s all-day coverage of the crippled Carnival Triumph’s slow return to port may have attracted a lot of scorn from Jon Stewart and Joe Scarborough, but it pulled in a hefty number of viewers too. Focusing on the powerless cruise ship’s tug into Mobile, Ala, the cable news network saw a 43% boost in total day viewership from last Thursday. That rise to 565,000 from 395,000 also gave CNN a 54% jump in the adults 25-54 demo over the same day last week.
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If this shift away from traditional CNN menu of international and domestic political events is part of new boss Jeff Zucker’s plan to turn to the ratings challenged CNN around, it certainly had a positive ratings effect in the short term last night. While not beating Fox News Channel in overall viewers or in primetime yesterday, CNN was No. 1 in the key demo at 10 PM and 11 PM, when the ship was finally being brought into dock. CNN garnered 400,000 viewers in 25-54 between 10 PM-midnight, compared to Fox News’ 252,000 Fox News and MSNBC’s 132,000 as they covered the cruise ship’s movement during the same time period. In primetime overall, CNN was up 30% from last week in total viewers with 1.024 million, compared to the 785,000 who watched on February 7. In the adults 25-54 demo, the network saw a spike of 74% compared to last week’s primetime, with 295,000 viewers compared to the 169,000 of February 7.
Still, the network’s cruise ship coverage didn’t smell like roses to everyone. “CNN has been on the case, for some reason giving this boat crisis wall-to-shit-covered-wall coverage, treating a stalled cruise ship like it’s the Shackleton expedition,” Daily Show host Stewart said last night before the Triumph had even reached dry land. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe early today, Scarborough talked about how the civil war in Syria and the Senate battle over potential Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faded into the background. “We don’t have to worry anymore because CNN tells us that this cruise ship was the only story that mattered yesterday for 24 hours,” the co-host said.