When Oprah Winfrey left network television in 2011 to form her own cable channel, OWN, her show was bringing in six million viewers a week. Today, OWN suffers from underwhelming ratings, which led it to lay off about 20% of staff last year.
So the announcement that Winfrey will be conducting Lance Armstrong’s first interview since the cyclist was kicked out of his sport for doping is a much-needed coup for the TV host and media mogul. Armstrong, who is expected to fess up during the Jan. 17 interview, is Winfrey’s first high-profile interview in a while.
When golf legend Tiger Woods issued a public apology for his adultery, seven million people tuned in on various networks. Armstrong’s notoriety—and the long saga of accusations that led to his ultimate disgrace—could attract an even larger audience, likely augmented by OWN’s decision to broadcast the interview on oprah.com at the same time it airs on TV.
For many Americans, tuning in to the interview may be the first time they’ve even checked what channel OWN occupies on their TV dial. So whatever the broadcast does from Armstrong’s reputation, it may well mean redemption for Oprah, too.