CNN, solidifying its status as the network cable viewers turn to when a major news story breaks, harvested a gaudy 2.7 national Nielsen rating for more than a dozen hours of coverage of the Los Angeles earthquake.
That rating, derived from cable households only, translates into 1,705,000 homes, a 440% increase over a typical day’s rating on CNN in December of 1993.
For the full 24 hours of Monday, Jan. 17, CNN chalked up a 1.9 rating in cable households, a 280% jump over that of an average December 1993 day.
CNN executives were particularly elated over the Nielsens because the broadcast networks canceled most of their morning and daytime programming to focus on news of the earthquake, and many viewers in Los Angeles, the second-largest TV market in the country, couldn’t watch their sets because the earthquake disrupted electric power.
“It’s almost like a behavioral pattern of cable viewers,” says a CNN spokeswoman. “For a big story like the earthquake, people instantaneously flip to CNN.”