Who's landing the big interviews after Oprah?
FILE - This undated image originally released by Harpo, Inc. shows host Oprah Winfrey posing with Paris Jackson, daughter of the late pop icon Michael Jackson in Los Angeles. Winfrey interviewed Jackson for an "Oprah's Next Chapter," special which aired on June 10 on OWN. (AP Photo/Harpo Inc., George Burns)
NEW YORK (AP) — Since Oprah Winfrey packed up the couch that Tom Cruise jumped on and ended her daytime talk show last year, no one has truly filled her role as the top go-to person in television for major celebrity and news interviews.
Now someone is trying to claim that spot — and would you believe it's Oprah again?
Faced with the potential failure of her money-pit cable network OWN, Winfrey is working the phones hard to secure big-name interviews for her show, "Oprah's Next Chapter." Back-to-back episodes last Sunday featured the Kardashian family and rapper 50 Cent, and the Kardashians will be back this weekend. Michael Jackson's daughter Paris and the late Whitney Houston's family made news with their interviews in recent weeks.
The open question is whether she can have the same cultural impact on a smaller stage. Winfrey's daytime talk show was generally seen by around 6 million people in her final years; "Oprah's Next Chapter" with the Kardashians was seen by 1.1 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company.
"I am sure that people have a conversation about that when they are exploring their options," said Sheri Salata, OWN president. "The one constant we have ... is that you have the opportunity to sit down with Oprah."
Winfrey's daytime show wasn't all about interviews, of course. But in her last few seasons, she sat down for conversations with the likes of Tina Fey, Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Obama, Madonna, Denzel Washington, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Branson and Beyonce.
The audience was primarily women but, as Cruise proved with his eager declarations of love for Katie Holmes in 2005, the cultural impact could spread beyond the afternoon.
"Doing an interview on one of those shows was like Johnny Carson asking you to come sit with him after you've done your stand-up," said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "If there was any equivalent to playing the Palace at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, being on 'Oprah' might have been it."
FILE - An undated image from video originally released by Harpo, Inc., shows host Oprah Winfrey, left, embracing Bobbi Kristina, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston during an interview in Atlanta, Ga. The exclusive interview was shown on "Oprah's Next Chapter," on the OWN network on March 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Harpo, Inc., file)
While Thompson said that "half the people can't find OWN on their cable television," that may underestimate Winfrey. The "Oprah's Next Chapter" episode with Houston's family in March premiered to 3.5 million people, Nielsen said. Many others heard about it or saw clips.