Oprah’s Armstrong ratings not up to Winfrey of old
Some viewers had a hard time finding OWN on their cable lineups, as evidenced by a spike in online searches about the channel.
The New York Times
Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey played out in the sports media for three days by the time she was shown on television asking, “Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?” and he was shown saying “Yes.”
Maybe that is why the first part of Winfrey’s exclusive interview did not draw more than 4.3 million viewers to OWN on Thursday night.
An average of 3.17 million viewers watched the 90-minute premiere, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings released for the first installment. An additional 1.12 million watched a repeat later in the evening, bringing the total unduplicated audience to 4.3 million.
That is a great result by OWN’s standards but not by Winfrey’s standards. Some of her interviews on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” scored upward of 10 million viewers; her biggest, a prime-time interview with Michael Jackson, drew 62 million viewers to ABC in 1993.
But 2013 is a different time, and cable and broadcast are different animals. Some viewers had a hard time finding OWN on their cable lineups, as evidenced by a spike in online searches about the channel. Still, enough viewers found it to make the Armstrong interview the highest-rated telecast in OWN’s two-year history, at least when both of Thursday’s telecasts are counted as one.
OWN also made the interview accessible on the Internet and said it counted nearly 600,000 streams there.
Previously, the title of highest-rated OWN telecast belonged to Winfrey’s interview of Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and her family in March, one month after Houston died. The premiere of that interview attracted 3.5 million viewers to the channel.
It was not promoted as heavily as the Armstrong interview. After sitting down with Armstrong on Monday, Winfrey appeared on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday and said, “I think it’s certainly the biggest interview I’ve ever done, in terms of its exposure,” comparing it to the Jackson interview in 1993.
By then, many news organizations had already reported that Armstrong had confessed to doping to Winfrey, potentially leading some people to tune in Thursday but many others to skip it since they already knew the result. Some armchair news-media critics speculated the interview would have rated higher as a live broadcast. The second part of the taped interview was shown Friday. Preliminary numbers on that were pending.