Half of Norway's population watch 'Hurtigruten'

LONDON — A continuous live broadcast of a six-day fjord cruise trip has turned into an unexpected ratings hit for Norwegian pubcaster NRK.

Figures from TNS Gallup show that 2.54 million Norwegians – more than half of the country’s 4.93 million inhabitants — have watched the program, “Hurtigruten — Minute by Minute,” which follows the MS Nord-Norge, a cruise ship owned by the Hurtigruten line, as it makes its way along the coast and into the fjords of Norway — a voyage of 1,460 nautical miles.

“I don’t think we’ve managed to digest just how much this has captivated viewers,” Rune Moklebust, the show’s exec producer, said Monday.

The coverage — put together on board by a 22-strong TV crew with 11 cameras — is being carried by channel NRK2 and streamed live on the company’s website.

The show’s highest viewing figures, 692,000, came at midnight on Sunday when the ship sailed into Trollfjord in Lofoten, lit by the Midnight Sun.

The program, which started Thursday night as the ship set sail from the southwestern city of Bergen, will have run for 134 hours when it docks on Wednesday morning in Kirkenes, a small town at Norway’s northernmost point at the border with Russia, where the sun does not set in summer.

The show has turned into what Norwegians call a “folkefest,” as crowds of well-wishers and brass bands meet the ship at each port of call, and a flotilla of boats sail alongside.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg joined in the party spirit when he wrote on Twitter over the weekend, “This is Norway at its absolute best.”

The website coverage has also drawn viewers from outside of Norway, with NRK estimating that 7% of viewers came from Denmark and 4% each from folk in Germany, the U.K., France and the U.S.

Under Creative Commons rules, NRK is making all footage available to other websites for free, as long it is attributed to the network.

Moklebust admits that the footage can be dull in parts. “Some say it’s like watching paint dry, but it’s so fun to sit in the master control room and mix the cameras,” he said.

During quiet periods when the ship is docked, live footage is interspersed with archive material focusing on different aspects of Norwegian culture.

It’s not the first time Moklebust has taken Norwegians on an epic journey. In 2009 he produced a live show of a seven-hour train journey between Oslo and Bergen.

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