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TV Ratings: Cruise Coverage Boosts CNN's Thursday by 74 Percent

Still losing to Fox News, the network's wall-to-wall tackling of Triumph's slow return brings big boosts among total viewers and the key demo.

Carnival Cruise Docks in Mobile Alabama - H 2013
Getty Images
Passengers departing Carnival Triumph

Is the tide already changing over at CNN?

Despite rampant media criticism over the cable network's wall-to-wall coverage of crippled Carnival cruise ship Triumph finally docking in Alabama, Thursday marked exceptional ratings returns for Jeff Zucker's network, surging as much as 74 percent above recent primetime averages.

Still tracking well below first place network Fox News Channel for the day and during primetime, Nielsen reports that CNN's coverage during the hours of the actual docking (between 10 p.m. and midnight) brought a demo win for the network.

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CNN averaged 400,000 adults 25-54 during the two-hour block, pulling a total of 1.2 million total viewers. FNC pulled 252,000 in the demo and 1.33 million total viewers, skipping wall-to-wall coverage in favor of devoting Greta Van Susteren's broadcast of On the Record to the subject. And MSNBC, which covered politics on The Last Word until approximately 10:20 when it cut to the Triumph, had 132,000 demo viewers and 529,000 for the time it focused on the cruise.

Media attention had been fixed on the cruise ship for the five days it was adrift without power, and dispatches detailing the ship's unsanitary conditions drew public disgust.

For the entire primetime block (8 to 11 p.m.), CNN averaged 1.024 million viewers and 295,000 adults 25-54, up respective 62 and 74 percent from the previous four Thursdays. And boasting "exclusive" aerial shots of Triumph slowly approaching the Mobile port throughout the day had CNN up 50 percent by both measures to 565,000 viewers and 175,000 in the demo.

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FNC eclipsed CNN with 2.14 million primetime viewers and 321,000 in the demo, though MSNBC fell behind the network with 867,000 primetime viewers and 245,000 of them adults 25-54. The rankings held the same in total day, with FNC leading (1.38 million viewers, 276,000 adults 25-54) and MSNBC behind with 535,000 viewers and 140,000 in the demo.

As has been the custom in the recent years that marked CNN's ratings decline, breaking news and event television has remained the network's ratings bread and butter. CNN recently nabbed notable victories during the inauguration and State of the Union address. And though Fox's ratings title remains quite far from its grasp, CNN has made a few gains on the second-place cable newser. CNN has topped MSNBC in the key demo six of the last seven days.