December 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview scores major ratings

Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated interview with disaffected royal couple Meghan and Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, was a major ratings draw for CBS on Sunday.

An average of 17.1 million viewers watched the two-hour telecast from 8 to 10 p.m. on both coasts, according to Nielsen. The figure is well in the range of the network’s expectations. CBS reportedly paid in the range of $7 million for the rights to the program and sold 30-second commercials at a rate of $325,000.

The figure falls well below Winfrey’s most-watched interview, her 90-minute sit-down with pop superstar Michael Jackson on Feb. 10, 1993. An audience of 62 million viewers tuned into ABC for that program during an era when the broadcast networks faced competition only from cable, which was then in around 60% of U.S. television households.

“Oprah With Meghan and Harry” did top Diane Sawyer’s exclusive with Caitlyn Jenner when the Olympic gold medal-winning athlete came out out as a transgender woman. That April 24, 2015, interview was watched by 16.9 million viewers on ABC.

The audience for “Oprah With Meghan and Harry” was impressive by streaming-era standards where viewers have more choices and the knowledge that they can catch clips on the internet after a program airs. Appointment viewing outside of sporting events has nearly become a relic in recent years, to the point where younger viewers of Winfrey’s show commented on social media about having to sit through commercials.

The program lived up to its promotional buildup, as Winfrey’s skillful questioning elicited a number of bombshell revelations about the challenges that Meghan and Harry faced during their courtship and marriage as they battled the judgments of the royal family and vicious coverage in the British tabloid press.

Meghan, who is biracial, and Harry also revealed that a royal family member asked how dark their son Archie’s skin would be. The pregnant duchess said the treatment she received drove her to suicidal thoughts.

Winfrey, appearing Monday on “CBS This Morning,” said Harry requested she reveal that neither of his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth or Prince Philip, asked the question about Archie’s skin tone.

Tina Brown, a CBS News contributor, described the interview as as “Kryptonite, this is a hand grenade that has been thrown into the heart of the institution. This is immensely damaging.”

“Oprah With Meghan and Harry” is scheduled to air in the United Kingdom Monday night.