CNN Cruise Ship Coverage Leads To Ratings Spike

02/16/2013 01:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2013

Many people mocked CNN for its wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship saga. But CNN is probably having the last laugh after its ratings spiked on the night of the ship's bedraggled return to port.

Even people who had been on the Triumph told the network, live on air, that it was making too much out of the story, which it covered for hour after hour after hour on Thursday. Media critics scoffed at the spectacle, which is being widely seen as a harbinger of new chief Jeff Zucker's plans to add more sensational coverage.

But the numbers didn't lie: people were interested. And numbers —not critical approval— are what CNN needs. Despite sky-high profits, its stubbornly moribund prime-time and morning ratings are what led to Zucker's arrival, as well as the ouster of several of his predecessors.

CNN beat Fox News and MSNBC combined in the coveted A25-54 demo for two crucial hours in primetime on Thursday. The Hollywood Reporter said this was a 74 percent jump over the network's recent numbers. CNN also beat MSNBC —its most pressing goal, since Fox News remains so far ahead — in the ratings all day.

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