Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey drew 3.1 million viewers on its first telecast Thursday night on OWN, below what might have been expected considering the gravitas of the interview.
Over two back-to-back telecasts, the interview drew 4.3 million.
Winfrey, the CEO of the Discovery-owned cabler, sat down with Armstrong for a 90-minute chat from Austin, Texas, at 9 p.m. ET. As widely expected, Armstrong confessed to blood doping taking performance-enhancing drugs that helped him win seven Tour de France races.
The telecast was not the most-watched telecast on OWN. That was recorded in March when 3.5 million viewers saw Winfrey interview Whitney Houston’s family following the singer’s death in February. In August, an interview with singer Rihanna drew 2.4 million.
Winfrey, who used to rule daytime with her own talkshow, competed against second night of “American Idol” on Fox in many parts of the country Thursday night. “Idol” drew 16.2 million in its two-hour broadcast.
The ratings may have been depressed because most who tuned in already knew that Armstrong was going to admit to lying for much of his career. Also, the interview was conducted Monday and several news agencies released segments of the conversation.
And, the Manti Te’o scandal — the Notre Dame player’s girlfriend actually never existed — was grabbing most sports headlines over the last two days.
Earlier in the week OWN president Erik Logan said the network received significant interest from advertisers as the scatter market picked up closer to the telecast, but it was not yet a sellout. Although he said those coming on board were paying a premium to be part of the telecast, he wouldn’t reveal the prices for a 30- or 60-second spot.
Logan added that the network had “a lot riding” on the interview in terms of bringing new viewers to OWN. Many men, especially, will have tuned on OWN for the first time.
OWN promoted several of their upcoming programs during the telecast, including the season premiere of “Our America With Lisa Ling.”
The second half on the interview will air tonight. Those ratings are expected to be far below what they were on Thursday.