Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s decision to air an entire six-day voyage by one of Norway’s Hurtigruten ships live on TV has turned into one of its most successful programs ever. New ratings numbers show that more than half the population tuned in during the weekend.
“I don’t think we’ve managed to digest just how much this has captivated viewers,” NRK’s Rune Møklebust, who’s headed the unusual marathon broadcast, said on Monday when the new numbers from TNS Gallup came in.
Fully 2,542,000 Norwegians tuned in to NRK’s channel 2 (NRK2) during the weekend, in a country of just 4.93 million people. Many were also watching from outside Norway, with 46 percent of those clicking in to NRK’s live coverage via its website (external link) coming from abroad. Of that, reports NRK, 7 percent were clicking in from Denmark, and 4 percent from, respectively, the US, Germany, Great Britain and France.
Several who regularly read this website were writing in to say how much they enjoyed Views and News’ coverage of the program and links to the broadcast on NRK.no. “All I can say is WOW,” wrote reader Pam Tonsaker from Canada. “We are booked on a short Bergen-Bodø cruise in July. Now I wish we could have done it for a longer time.” She added that her only regret was that there are no English subtitles on the NRK broadcast, “because I would love to know what is being said.”
The biggest concentration of viewers was watching as late as midnight Sunday in Norway when the Hurtigruten ship MS Nord-Norge, equipped with cameras mounted all over it, sailed in and out of the scenic Trollfjord in Lofoten, lit by the Midnight Sun. At that point, 692,000 people were watching what looks set to rank as the world’s longest documentary on television ever produced. It’s clearly also become wildly popular.
Some scoffed at the idea when it was announced last spring, wondering who on earth would watch a slow-moving vessel sail from Bergen to Kirkenes, Norway over the a period of 134 hours (Thursday night until Wednesday morning). A fair question, especially if the weather was bad and fog or rain obscured the stunning landscapes along the way. But luck has been with NRK and the Hurtigruten line, which is widely believed to be receiving probably the most incredible free publicity in broadcast history.
NRK has viewed the project as a special documentary and simply a unique thing to do, based on the success of a program two years ago that followed every minute of the train ride over the mountains from Bergen to Oslo. That also attracted huge amounts of viewers, who found themselves mesmerized by the scenery and the feeling of being on board the train. Now many feel they’re on board the Nord-Norge.
The program has also turned into what the Norwegians call a huge folkefest (literally, “people’s party”) as folks turn out in droves to wave at the ship, escort it in their own boats or gather on the pier at its ports of call. The escort boats have caused concern, though, when they’ve crossed in front of the bow of the much larger Nord-Norge in en effort to be part of the event and perhaps get on national television. The ship’s officers have worried that if any one of them suffered engine failure, the ship could roll over them. Boat owners were being urged to stay clear of the ship and not interfere with its course.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has been among those catching parts of the show. “This is Norway at its absolute best,” Stoltenberg wrote in a message over Twitter during the weekend.
NRK has 22 staff members on board the ship, ensuring round-the-clock coverage and switching at regular intervals among the various cameras around the ship. They’ll keep documenting and broadcasting the voyage, interspersed with archive material, until the ship berths at its turnaround port at Kirkenes, in the far north of Norway near the Russian border on Wednesday morning.
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