The Oprah Winfrey interview with cyclist Lance Armstrong generated 3.1 million US viewers to the full telecast, a record for OWN, the Winfrey-fronted channel (and totalled 4.3m with a later repeat), plus millions more around the world. OWN charged $100,000 per 30-second advert during the commercial breaks, a huge premium on the channel’s normal rate-card of $12,000 per spot. Cadillac, Buick and Proctor & Gamble were buyers. Only a previous interview last March with Whitney Houston’s daughter got close to these ratings.
And the high advertising rates come just as the channel is about to start earning big bucks. Oprah’s channel is backed by Discovery Communications, and it is Discovery’s clout with America’s cable broadcasters that have given it distribution to more than 80 million homes. However, according to SNL Kagan, most of these were paying just 1 cent per month per home. Kagan says that by the end of this year, helped by agreements already in place, those fees will rocket to nearer 10c per home. Just an extra 2 cents represents an extra $19 million a year in revenues. Kagan reckons that OWN had revenues of $107 million last year, and this year should see revenues jump to $239.6 million – and perhaps more.
The Lance Armstrong interview can also give OWN more influence in improving its position on the EPG. A better placing, and mixed in with those networks that favour female viewing such as Bravo and Lifetime.