Armstrong confession a win for Oprah

The talk show queen's struggling cable channel is making big bucks from ad sales.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 18, 2013 1:10PM
File photo of Oprah Winfrey on October 25, 2012 ( Ray Tamarra/Getty Images)The winner in the Lance Armstrong doping saga is Oprah Winfrey, as if there was any doubt.

According to Advertising Age, advertisers are paying $100,000 to the talk show queen's struggling OWN cable channel to buy commercials for its two-part Armstrong interview special that continues Friday.

That's about 40% to 50% higher than they have paid for spots on other OWN interview specials, though still less than what other cable channels charge, the publication says. Then again, nothing is quite like the story of Armstrong, a Greek tragedy if there ever was one. Until recently, he was one of the world's most admired athletes and humanitarians. Now, many people see Armstrong as a liar and a cheat.

Though data on cable ratings and Web traffic was not immediately available, it is safe to say that last night's Armstrong confession was a big hit for Winfrey. It likely surpassed OWN's biggest ratings success to this point, which was Winfrey's interview with Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, which attracted about 3.5 million viewers.

Like most Americans, I had to look up where to find OWN on my cable network before I could tune in to watch the spectacle. A spokesperson for OWN said the network would release ratings information Friday afternoon. She declined to comment on Advertising Age's story.
The fact that Armstrong chose to spill his guts to Winfrey speaks volumes about the power that she has in popular culture. It also is a break that OWN, which she co-owns with Discovery (DISCA), desperately needs. 

Judging from the Twitter traffic, many people seemed to think Winfrey did a good job handling a tough interview. Maybe it will remind viewers of why they liked Winfrey in the first place and perhaps encourage then to check out OWN's other shows, such as "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals."

OWN has struggled to attract viewers ever since Winfrey ended her hugely popular syndicated talk show in 2011. Winfrey laid off 30 staffers last year and canceled Rosie O'Donnell's talk show to cut costs. As of last year, OWN had reportedly cost Discovery Communications more than $300 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. Winfrey has said she underestimated how difficult it would be to start her own network.

About the only downside to landing such a huge interview as Armstrong is Armstrong himself. According to reaction on Twitter and elsewhere, some viewers found him so unlikeable during Thursday night's chat that they may not have the stomach to tune in for the conclusion.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Follow him on Twitter @jdberr

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Jan 18, 2013 3:48PM
Five minutes is all you had to watch -- the only person who believes a liar is the liar.
Jan 18, 2013 3:48PM
Not in my book!!! Oprah is all for herself, and i can't stand her! She thinks she is all that, and is nothing as a "nobody"!!!!!!!!
Jan 18, 2013 3:39PM

Could not have won, if he did not dope? FALSE ATHLETE...period. As for Oprah-who cares?! I used to like her but now she has a huge chip on her shoulder......and quite frankly thinks she is the crème de la crème. She is snobby and is only concerned with $. Helping children in foreign countries building schools, what about the female children here or the women here in the states that are still being paid less than women? GET your priorities in order OPRAH.

Jan 18, 2013 3:28PM

I think her Tom Cruise interview was better. Maybe Lance should have jumped on a couch and joined Scientology.

Jan 18, 2013 3:24PM

East we did not hear from Barbera WAWA


Jan 18, 2013 2:42PM
Talk about a fat cat this woman is one of the biggest, don't think for a minute she did this for the public.The only reason this was done was to futher her network and put millions in her pocket.
Jan 18, 2013 2:11PM
They probably got together to figure out how much his confession would spike her ad revenues and cut a deal.  LoL
Jan 18, 2013 1:58PM
Oprah is a has been. Who needs her or her show when all the major news channels are reporting everything he said. If not Oprah, it could have been Barbara or any journalist for that matter.
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