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Remain Glued to Sets as Full Scope of the Horror and Relief Need Unfolds

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NEW YORK ( -- The wave of water, destruction and death that swept across Asia to create one of modern human history's greatest disasters has also kept Americans riveted to their TV sets.
Photo: AP
More than 120,000 are now reported dead and 5 million homeless in the wake of Asia's devastating tsunami. Here, trapped Indonesian victims ford a flooded area toward safety.

Round-the-clock publicity about the horrific effect of the tsunami that scoured human habitations and infrastructure from entire swaths of continental edge across southern Asia has also driven a massive outpouring of relief donations from American viewers.

Skewed TV viewing
Overall, the patterns of TV viewing across the U.S. remain dramatically skewed from their normal holiday fare of low-rated repeats and year-end news roundups.

For instance, ABC Network's Tsunami: Wave of Destruction, hosted by Charles Gibson on Wednesday night, topped its 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot and was the most watched show of the night.

According to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate ratings, provided by ABC, the news program's story of the after-effects of the underwater earthquake attracted a total of 10.3 million viewers, and had a 6.8 rating and a 12 share among households. Presented as a Primetime Live special, Tsunami aired against C.S.I: New York on CBS and Law & Order on NBC.

According to NBC, which provided metered market data for Dec. 27-29, its Nightly News broadcast saw a 10% increase in households while ABC saw a 9% increase and CBS saw a 9% drop. For the combined three-day broadcasts, NBC's Nightly News came

Photo: AP
Vast areas of some of the most densely populated coastal areas on Earth have been obliterated by the tidal wave. Here, survivors in a southern Indian coastal village wander a landscape of devastation in which no structure remains standing.
out tops, gaining an 8 household rating, with ABC winning a 7.5 rating and CBS a 5.3 rating.

On cable, tsunami disaster coverage drew heavy audiences at cable networks Fox News and CNN. Fox held its overall lead in households for the Dec. 26-28 period. It averaged a 0.9 household rating for daytime on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday compared to CNN, which had a 0.6 increase in the same category.

On Dec. 26, the first day of the disaster, Fox News Channel registered 598,000 viewing households against CNN's 339,000. The following day, Fox News had 808,000 households against CNN's 573,000. On Dec. 28, Fox News Channel attracted 938,000 households against CNN's 665,000.

CNN's international correspondents
During prime time, CNN pulled in more viewers, as it used its network of international correspondents to offer broad views and insights about the staggering number of victims and overall geographic impact of the earthquake-driven horror that is now said to have killed more than 120,000 people and left 5 million homeless and without basic necessities.

According to the Time Warner network, CNN viewing by 25- to 54-year-olds during prime-time on Dec. 28, when the full scope of the disaster was still being revealed, increased by 189% over the prior three-week average for a Tuesday night.

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