Armstrong interview spotlights Winfrey's network
FILE - In this April 14, 2011 file publicity image released by OWN, TV personality and media mogul Oprah Winfrey presents at the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network portion of the Discovery Communications Upfront at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong is more than an illustration of a hero athlete tumbling from the heights. It's also a pivotal moment for a famous media figure on the way back. Winfrey's OWN network is showing signs of life after a well-documented rocky start, and the Armstrong interview offered a chance for many more viewers to tune in. The first half of the interview aired Thursday Jan. 17, 2013, with a second part Friday. (AP Photo/OWN, George Burns) MANDATORY CREDIT: GEORGE BURNS/OWN
NEW YORK (AP) — Oprah Winfrey's interview with Lance Armstrong is more than an illustration of a hero athlete tumbling from the heights. It's also a pivotal moment for a famous media figure trying to climb the ladder back up.
Winfrey's OWN network is showing signs of life after a rocky start, and the Armstrong interview offered a chance for many more viewers to check it out. The former Tour de France cyclist admitted to cheating with performance enhancing drugs throughout his career during the first half of the interview Thursday night. A second part is to air Friday.
The interview "showcases the No. 1 asset this network has over everybody else — and that's Oprah Winfrey," said Erik Logan, co-president of the network with Sheri Solata. It also showcased about everything else; OWN relentlessly advertised its programming on just about every commercial break.
Winfrey, who hosts "Oprah's Master Class," ''Oprah's Life Class" and a weekly interview show on OWN, attended a real-life television management class over the past three years. The network launch at the dawn of 2011 came during the last season of Winfrey's popular syndicated show, and that proved to be a major strategic error.
The daily talk show gave Winfrey's fans their Oprah jolt, and they had little reason to watch the Oprah Winfrey Network. Winfrey wasn't much of a presence there, anyway. She was concentrating on making sure her syndicated show went out with a flourish.
OWN flailed for direction with little-noticed celebrity reality shows featuring the Judds and Ryan and Tatum O'Neal. A Rosie O'Donnell talk show was an expensive flop.
Discovery Communications, which sunk a reported $250 million into OWN, told Winfrey she needed to be more involved with OWN, on and off screen. In July 2011, she became CEO as well as chairwoman of OWN, replacing Christina Norman.
"The initial expectations for this network turned out to be unrealistic," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for Horizon Media. "Oprah wasn't on camera. The shows weren't all that good. The network got raked over the coals. People thought the network would be doing a million viewers (on average) and it's doing a third of that."
FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, file photo provided by Harpo Studios Inc., talk show host Oprah Winfrey, right, interviews Lance Armstrong during taping for the show "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" in Austin, Texas. Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France cycling during the interview that aired Thursday, Jan. 17, reversing more than a decade of denial. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc., George Burns, File)
The Discovery networks save money by sharing services, yet OWN had set up its own fiefdom. That ended. Discovery brought in its executives to take over legal and business affairs, and OWN laid off one-fifth of its staff last March. To the outside world it looked like a sinking ship, while to Discovery the ship was being righted.