Since its 2011 inception, Oprah Winfrey's OWN television network has lagged in the ratings and suffered losses in the hundreds of millions. But all that changed on Thursday with her interview with Lance Armstrong.
It was the first time the disgraced cycling star broke his silence since the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found him guilty of doping and banned the 7-time Tour de France winner from competing ever again, a huge coup for Winfrey's network, the New York Times
"[It was] maybe Ms. Winfrey’s biggest since her 1993 sit-down with Michael Jackson," said Brian Stelter, a New York Times media reporter. That was a long time before Winfrey cast her fate with OWN, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Harpo Productions, the company Winfrey founded before her daytime TV glory.
"Ratings won't be in until later today, but early estimates put total viewers above at least the 3.5 million mark for the event," Ad Week
said of the Thursday installment of the two-part Armstrong sit-down. The second part airs Friday night.
The network has been able to raise advertising rates for the Armstrong interview, while also running ads for other programs on the channel. From the broadcast alone, OWN will likely begin to recover the $400 million deficit Discovery and Winfrey pumped into the channel when it was founded.
Another key factor in OWN's potential financial breakthrough is subscriber fees from some of the biggest cable and satellite networks in the country. OWN is currently sent to 83 million television sets in the United States, and the network makes 20 cents per month off each subscriber.
According to a firm that publishes Q-score ratings, a combination of appeal and familiarity, Oprah's Q score dropped, reportedly because of her inability to emotionally connect adult women. She went from a 31 rating to a 22, but remained above the average of 16.
“She’s been out of focus for a while," Henry Schafer of Marketing Evaluations told the Times.
Still, the situation was much changed from two weeks ago.
"Lance wants to talk," Winfrey had excitedly told OWN co-presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata in a phone call the Tuesday before last.
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