How CNN Sells Breaking News

The inside poop on managing TV’s most sensitive inventory

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CNN took plenty of heat yesterday for its extensive coverage of Carnival’s ill-fated “Poop Cruise”—upon losing power in the Gulf of Mexico, the cruise ship Triumph transformed into a drifting hellscape of overflowing toilets, food shortages and sickened passengers—prompting at least one Twitter wag to dub the network’s 4 p.m.-7 p.m. block The Shituation Room With Wolf Blitzer. (We’ll see how the wall-to-feces-spattered-wall coverage translates in the Nielsen ratings, when the numbers arrive later this afternoon.)

This all raises an interesting question from an advertiser’s perspective: when there’s a big story that captures the world’s attention—whether it’s a ship where life is imitating Lord of the Flies or the inauguration of an American president—how do you cash in?

Obviously, a known quantity is the easiest to sell.



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