OSLO (Reuters) - Worn out by a fast-paced life and faster-paced television shows but lack a vacation budget? Take a five-day cruise along Norway's scenic fjords, all free and streamed live on Norwegian public television.
For 8,040 minutes straight -- including all the boring bits -- viewers can follow the Hurtigruten MMS Nordnorge cruise ship and its roughly 670 passengers and crew as the vessel steams north along Norway's jagged coastline.
The "minute-by-minute" coverage started on Thursday and includes all on-board announcements and views from 11 cameras focussing on the spectacular fjords, boat traffic around the ship, officers on the bridge and the mostly elderly passengers strolling the decks and taking in the scenery.
"It is slow, it is very slow," said Rune Moeklebust, the project manager for the show running on the NRK2 channel.
"It is the opposite to everything else on TV -- that's why it stands out and why, apparently, people want to watch."
Preliminary viewing data is encouraging, Moeklebust told Reuters, with 1.3 million of Norway's 4.9 million residents at least "stopping by" NRK2 between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. on the first day.
With a peak audience of 325,000 and some 160,000 glued to the broadcast for the entire 7-hour period, the "live documentary" grabbed more viewers than NRK2's usual programming.
Passengers, mostly from Norway and Germany, booked tickets for the 1,460 nautical mile (2,920 km) voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes, a Barents Sea port near the Russian border deep in the Arctic, without knowing they would be part of what NRK said is set to be the world's longest uninterrupted live broadcast.
They were informed about the live-broadcasting plan by mail and in meetings after boarding in Bergen on Thursday.
"Some say it's like watching paint dry but it's so fun to sit in the master control room and mix the cameras," said Moeklebust, adding that 22 NRK crew were aboard the vessel providing the non-stop coverage.
Moeklebust said the idea for the cruise livecast came after the success of his previous minute-by-minute coverage from a train making a 7-hour trip between Oslo and Bergen, which was viewed at least in part by 1.2 million people in 2009.
"That night we realised just how much people wanted to see TV like this and we started thinking about what would be the ultimate Norwegian voyage," he said. "For many Norwegians, this is the most important trip of their lives... which tells the story of their coastline and shows its fantastic scenery."
To follow the voyage live, click on: here
(Editing by Paul Casciato)