Hurricane Gustav was must-see TV over the Labor Day weekend.
More than 65 million total viewers clicked over periodically to The Weather Channel as the one-time Category 3 hurricane whipped its way toward New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, eventually making landfall about 70 miles southwest of the Big Easy before weakening to a tropical storm.
While at least seven people were killed during the storm, including four from Georgia, Gustav never reached the Category 4 designation that many forecasters had predicted ahead of the weekend.
Gustav’s arrival came almost exactly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 hurricane, unleashed its fury on New Orleans and a large swath of the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people and causing an estimated $100 billion to $150 billion in damages.
While Gustav thankfully never lived up to the hype, the 65 million unduplicated viewers gave The Weather Channel the highest cumulative audience, or cume, of any cable TV network between Saturday and Monday—outpacing the likes of ESPN, TBS and CNN.
“We are proud of this achievement, especially when you consider the political activity being covered by the news networks last weekend and that the sports networks were featuring the opening of the college football season,” Ray Ban, TWC’s executive vice president of programming and meteorology, said in a statement. “The progression of Gustav was rightfully on the top of people’s minds, and we are pleased that viewers overwhelmingly trusted The Weather Channel for the updates they needed.”
The Nielsen Media Research viewership figures were based on one-minute qualifiers for tune-in. Among three- and six-minute qualifiers, The Weather Channel still remained No. 1 among all cable networks, TWC officials said.
For comparison, ESPN, which was kicking off its college football slate, came in second with a 62 million cume while CNN and Fox News Channel garnered cumulative audiences of 60 million and 49 million viewers, respectively.
On Monday, Sept. 1—the day Gustav made landfall—The Weather Channel posted a total day rating of 1.1 (1.1 million households). It recorded a 1.0 rating and an average of 971,000 homes and a 0.8 rating and 805,000 homes on Sunday, Aug. 31 and Saturday, Aug. 30, respectively.