CNN’s Breathless, Speculative Coverage Of Missing Plane Has Been Great For Ratings

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March 17, 2014 12:30 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — The mystery of the missing Malaysian Airlines jet has become a hot television story, particularly on CNN.

The network devoted the bulk of its time Friday to the story, a direct result of ratings showing a fascination among viewers about the Boeing 777 airliner that has been missing since taking off from a Kuala Lumpur airport a week ago.

CNN averaged 588,000 viewers for the full day Thursday, well above its average of 320,000 this year. Anderson Cooper’s prime-time show, which has focused heavily on the mystery, more than doubled its typical viewership the last two nights and topped 1.1 million viewers Thursday.

The network tracked various theories Friday, a headline on its screen identifying the story as “Vanished.” Correspondent Martin Savidge did several reports from a cockpit simulator, Wolf Blitzer discussed whether the recording of a seismic event in the region on the day the plane took off could be tied to a crash and security experts continued to mull potential terrorism.

It has become a water cooler topic, with several social media references to the downed jet that kicked off the popular television series “Lost.”

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Cooper’s show, which has averaged 444,000 viewers this year, reached 972,000 people on Wednesday, Nielsen said. On both of the last two nights, Cooper achieved the highly unusual feat of topping Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly among the 25- to 54-year-old age demographic. O’Reilly easily won among viewers of all ages.

So far, the plane story has meant less for Fox and MSNBC, which have a heavier concentration on political stories. Fox’s full-day average of 1.26 million people on Thursday beat the 1.1 million it has been typicallydrawing this year. MSNBC had 370,000 viewers, lower than its non-Olympic average of 405,000 this year, Nielsen said.

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