ASU student-produced 'Hooked' documentary reaches 1M viewers

man in background filming man in foreground

An estimated 1 million Arizonans tuned in last week to a documentary produced by Arizona State University students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the growing perils of heroin and opioid use in Arizona.

The statewide simulcast of “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” created by the Cronkite School in conjunction with the Arizona Broadcasters Association, attracted approximately 1 million viewers in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona, based on ratings by Nielsen and Rentrak.

Nielsen estimated nearly 390,000 households in the Phoenix market watched the documentary on television. Rentrak projected more than 117,000 households watched in the Tucson and Yuma markets, which do not have access to daily Nielsen ratings. Estimating an average of two viewers per household brings the total number to more than 1 million.

In the Phoenix market, “Hooked” was the week’s highest-rated program, with twice the number of viewers as the CBS crime drama NCIS, the regular weekly ratings frontrunner. The “Hooked” ratings were nearly half of the Phoenix viewing audience of last year’s Super Bowl.

During and after the simulcast, which aired on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio stations in Arizona, recovery counselors answered 438 calls through an ABA-sponsored call center in the Cronkite School for assistance on heroin and opioid addiction. They spent a total of total of 38 hours and 20 minutes on the phone.

“We were so overwhelmed with the positive response of ‘Hooked,’” said Art Brooks, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Broadcasters Association. “It’s unusual for highly competitive media outlets to work together, but this project proved that the extremity and urgency of the heroin issue in Arizona is far greater than all of us, and with the power of media and free, over-the-air broadcasting, we could help Arizonans in need.”

The 30-minute documentary traces the rise of heroin use and its impact on Arizonans through the stories of addicts struggling with sobriety, families grappling for solace and law enforcement officials battling on the frontlines.

The documentary includes an interactive website with numerous in-depth stories, data, interactives and counseling resources. In all, eight faculty members and more than 70 students worked on the semester-long project, which was led by Jacquee Petchel, a Cronkite professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor.

According to Christopher Callahan, Cronkite School dean and university vice provost, students will continue to report on Arizona’s heroin epidemic through the school’s professional news organization, Cronkite News. The operation includes a nightly newscast reaching 1.9 million households on Arizona PBS and digital news bureaus in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

“The media typically has a short attention span when it comes to covering issues of importance,” Callahan said. “We are not walking away from this problem which is killing hundreds of Arizonans every year. Our students will continue to report this public danger.”