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NRK cruises to ratings success

Half of Norway's population watch 'Hurtigruten'

LONDON — The 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 the country’s 4.93 million inhabitants, have watched “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,” says Rune Moklebust, the show’s exec producer.

The coverage — put together onboard by a 22-strong TV crew with 11 cameras — is being carried by channel NRK2 and streamed live on NRK’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 June 16 as the MS Nord-Norge set sail from the southwestern city of Bergen, ran for 134 hours, ending when the ship docked on June 22 in the Arctic port of Kirkenes, greeted by Norway’s Queen Sonja, who waved from her yacht.

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, “This is Norway at its absolute best.”

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

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

Moklebust admits 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 says.

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 featuring a seven-hour train journey between Oslo and Bergen.

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