The Cost of Triumph: CNN Spends Big and Gets Ratings in Return

By Alex Weprin Comment

CNN’s all-day coverage of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship incident paid off for the network in the ratings. The day-long, multi-location coverage also cost CNN a pretty penny (more on that after the jump).

While Fox News remained the top channel in total day and primetime, CNN was number one in the demo at 10 and 11 PM, when the cruise ship finally docked, drawing more A25-54 viewers than FNC and MSNBC combined. CNN also beat MSNBC in both total viewers and the demo, in total day and primetime.

Between 10 PM and midnight, when the ship docked and passengers began to disembark, here is where viewers were tuning in:

  • Fox News: 1.33M total viewers / 252,000 A25-54
  • CNN: 1.20M total viewers / 400,000 A25-54
  • MSNBC: 529,000 total viewers / 132,000 A25-54 (note: MSNBC’s numbers start at 10:24 PM, when cruise ship coverage began)

In total day Fox News averaged 1.38 million total viewers, (up +4% compared to last year, which was a typical Thursday,) including 276,000 demo viewers. CNN averaged 632,000 total viewers (up +52% compared to last year), including 189,000 demo viewers. MSNBC averaged 535,000 total viewers (down -7% compared to last year), including 140,000 demo viewers.

In primetime Fox News averaged 2.14 million total viewers (up +9% compared to last year), including 321,000 demo viewers. CNN averaged 1.03 million total viewers (up +44% compared to last year), including 296,000 demo viewers. MSNBC averaged 867,000 total viewers (down -7% compared to last year), including 245,000 demo viewers.

CNN likely spent in the mid-five figures to cover the event, according to a rough estimate TVNewser put together. A local Alabama helicopter charter company told us a mid-size helicopter would likely cost around $1,000 an hour to rent, while medium-sized boats in the area run a few hundred dollars a day. The rental fees, combined with costs associated with sending staff to Alabama from Atlanta and New York, and fees associated with broadcasting live on location, and it adds up to somewhere in the $30-$50K range.