BC Beat

Lance Armstrong is OWN's Latest Grab for Ratings

1/15/2013 06:27:38 PM

Everyone seems to be talking about “The Confession” - that is, Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong where he admitted to doping during his time as a professional cyclist. Winfrey appeared on CBS This Morning on Tuesday to tease the interview, which has now been expanded to two nights (Jan. 17 and 18) on her OWN network. Now the question is how many will watch.

By most guesses, probably a lot. Newsy, high-profile bookings have paid off for OWN in the last year: When Winfrey interviewed Whitney Houston’s family on Oprah’s Next Chapter on March 11, 2012, following the singer’s untimely death, the program saw its highest ratings ever - 3.5 million total viewers. An interview with pop star Rihanna in August, where she addressed her controversial relationship with Chris Brown, drew a second-best 2.5 million viewers.

Next Chapter, along with unscripted series like Welcome to Sweetie Pies and Iyanla: Fix My Life had OWN’s primetime ratings up 30% in total viewers and 32% among women 25-54 in 2012 compared to the prior year.

With OWN’s improving ratings, Discovery Communications CFO Andy Warren said on the company’s earnings call last November that the programmer expects to invest less in the joint venture going forward and still forecasts the two-year-old network to break even in the second half of 2013.

Given the buzz around the Armstrong get, the question is whether Winfrey’s is going to be going after more big, newsmaker interviews to really get her network solidly on the map - all indications would point to yes.

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