Oprah gets her payday with Lance

MICHAEL IDATO
Last updated 11:47 19/01/2013
Fairfax Australia

Oprah's interview with Lance Armstrong was an orchestrated work of art, says TV writer Michael Idato.

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Whether disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's plea for clemency in the court of public opinion delivers the desired outcome remains to be seen.

But after yesterday's exclusive tete-a-tete between Armstrong and America's talk show queen Oprah Winfrey one thing is certain: Oprah got her payday.

The interview drew an audience in America of 4.3 million viewers.

The figure of 4.3 million includes 3.2 million who tuned into the first broadcast of the interview. An additional 1.1 million watched later repeats of it.

Stitching together same-day repeats to create a total audience is a slightly unscientific method for measuring ratings, but is gives a reasonable indication of the audience volume.

As a single programme it falls short of the OWN channel's record-setting broadcast: last year's conversation between Winfrey and the family of Whitney Houston. That broadcast drew 3.5 million viewers to its first screening.

While the numbers seem big, they are not Winfrey's career best, illustrating the changed universe now that she has retired from network TV and opened shop on "basic cable".

Her The Oprah Winfrey Show could draw more than 10 million viewers to a blue-chip interview. Her 1993 interview with Michael Jackson, which was aired as a prime-time special, drew 62 million viewers.

Oprah's network OWN, a joint venture with the Discovery Channel, has struggled to make its mark in the multichannel space and, to some extent, depends on blue-chip interviews to deliver the sort of ratings spikes that will keep the channel on air.

The interview was also streamed worldwide via Oprah.com. An OWN spokeswoman said today the website played "a couple" of hundred thousand streams.

The second part airs this afternoon at 3pm.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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