The Oprah interview’s viewership was bigger than the Globes & Emmys combined

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I’ve been obsessed with the media-analysis aspect of the Meghan & Harry interview special for weeks now, ever since we first heard about it. There are so many layers of really interesting things happening around it. First off, it was incredibly smart for Meghan and Harry to go to Oprah, especially for an American audience. It was incredibly smart for Oprah/Harpo Studios to sell the interview to CBS, a network which gave Oprah all the time and space she wanted, and cut some really great teasers. They also got a series of massive exclusives for CBS This Morning with Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF. And then on top of everything else, Oprah and CBS got the gift of an unhinged British press and a deeply amateurish palace smear campaign in advance of the interview. It got to the point where CBS was getting millions of dollars in free advertising from every print and TV outlet in North America and Europe. So, little surprise – the interview got great numbers just on TV viewership alone.

Around 17.1 million people tuned in for Oprah Winfrey’s Sunday night interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on CBS, according to network, citing Nielsen data.

The two-hour sit down, called “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special,” pulled in a 2.6 rating among adults 18-49. Those numbers are likely to increase as adjusted data from home viewing and delayed viewing comes in over the next day or so. Nielsen traditionally posts the official numbers for Sunday events late the following Tuesday.

This is the largest primetime audience for any entertainment special during the current 2020-2021 TV season and CBS’s second most live-streamed event outside of the National Football League and Super Bowl Sunday. These preliminary figures are a solid return for CBS, which reportedly paid Oprah’s Harpo Productions a licensing fee of between $7 million and $9 million to air the special. Meghan and Harry were not paid to take part in the interview.

For comparison, more people watched the interview than watched September’s Emmy Awards and last month’s Golden Globes combined. The interview is proof that even in a time of streaming, there are still events that can drive considerable viewership to traditional network television.

[From CNBC]

Yes, super-smart to go with network television, and the unexpected bonus was that CBS used the interview to boost subscriptions to Paramount+ and CBS All Access, so that streaming options were available around the world. I still say that when all is said and done, this will very likely be the television event of the year.

Last thing: Meghan and Harry released a new family photo! They’re standing by their “tree of life” with Meghan cradling Archie in her arms, and Harry’s face is behind Meghan’s head. It’s a lovely photo! They released it to What We See for International Women’s Day. A celebration of Harry becoming a girl-dad.

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Photos courtesy of CBS.

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53 Responses to “The Oprah interview’s viewership was bigger than the Globes & Emmys combined”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I wonder how streaming numbers factor into that – are they included or no? I also expect the numbers to tick higher as people watch it on demand or streaming at this point .Heck I’m going to watch it again, I prefer to avoid the commercials if I can lol but I need to re-listen to some parts of it.

    That picture is gorgeous and I think it’s so perfect after the interview. “here we are, still standing, with our family.”

    • Cee says:

      I ended up watching it on Facebook of all places! Managed to find it with one hour left.

    • VS says:

      I read that the 17M didn’t include streaming….I watched on my own computer; other family members (my mom especially) were all screaming too noisy

      So I connected via CBS live. I suspect a lot of people did as well….

    • TeeBee says:

      Even my 80 year old dad, who gives no hoots about anything gossipy, or the monarchy or celebrity-associated, watched it and was affected by it. He felt so bad for Meghan, especially about Archie and his lack of protection. I think those that don’t sympathize with Meghan and Harry in some way, even as fellow human beings, well that says a lot more about the person than they’d ever care to admit.

  2. Levans says:

    The British media/BRF with their very obvious smear campaign gave the interview so much free publicity! You knew there were stories to tell based on their outsized reaction.

    Oprah did a phenomenal job as always with follow up questions and clarifying some of the subtext.

    I wonder what will become of the entire 3+ hour interview?! I would watch that. All of it. Like it was a directors cut of lord of the rings!

    • Midnight@theOasis says:

      Hopefully, they’ll combine all of the interview into one long cut without commercials. I’d watch that in a heartbeat.

    • Louise177 says:

      The smear campaign was the best thing to happen for the interview and Meghan and Harry. I’m sure it doubled the ratings. So many who didn’t care before couldn’t wait to see it. It also supported their claims that TRF were against them and leaked to the press.

  3. D says:

    I haven’t watched live network television in almost a year. I watched it all, from beginning to end, and was riveted. My cousin texted in the middle about seeing a commercial that had a new version of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” and I said, “I just saw that too because it was on during the Oprah interview!” (We are OLD and love that song). Guess what, she too was watching and said she never watches live TV. I think it brought out a lot of people who don’t normally watch TV and kept them because it was such a powerful interview.

    • lanne says:

      When I was in high school, we wanted to have that song as our theme song for something, junior year? prom? can’t remember. We were vetoed because the line “do you really want to live forever” was thought to be encouraging suicide!

    • Ginger says:

      Same. I never watch live tv anymore and my husband and I watched this. He absolutely loved it and wanted it to last longer. He is team Harry and Meghan.

  4. Sofia says:

    I figured it would do well in terms of numbers. Other than award shows (and they’re not doing too hot these days anyways) and the Super Bowl, people don’t watch live TV anymore especially in the streaming era

  5. Diana says:

    Oprah’s interview of Harry and Meghan was compelling, and once I started to watch, I could not stop. The couple’s candor was evident. Oprah truly is a masterful interviewer and did a fantastic job. I’m glad Gail is involved, too. CBS scored big time. Win/win/win/win – Harry and Meghan tell their story/Oprah/Gail/CBS.

    I think you’re right, Kaiser, it’s the TV event of the year.

    The photo of Meghan and Harry for International Women’s Day is stunning.

    • Myra says:

      Yes and unlike some of the previous concerns that it would be softball, it wasn’t. She asked all the questions that people were putting out there. She put Harry on the spot quite a bit. The difference is she wasn’t rude. She allowed them the opportunity to answer. She didn’t quickly fill in the silent pauses with gotcha questions. She circled back to previous answers for more clarity. Her questions where direct in places where they tried to keep it abstract.

  6. Cat says:

    Oprah needs a shirt: Oprah is good at interviews

    It’s been so long, I forgot how good she is at interviewing. I wouldn’t have expected the ratings to have gone any other way. I’m sure you’re right with the tv event of the year!

    Such a beautiful family picture! Happy and healthy; so good to see!

  7. Angel says:

    Im not the biggest fan of Oprah but she did an amazing job. I liked every questions she asked. I wanted the itw to be longer.

  8. kesley says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the true numbers were way higher than that. A lot of people on my Twitter timeline (Brits, people on the West Coast) were watching on VPNs or streams. CBS has the entire interview on their website. I would reckon the real numbers are close to double what the “official” numbers are listed as.

  9. nicegirl says:

    I’m in love with this photo! Lovely

  10. Maevo says:

    I think award shows have really lost their usefulness for viewers. In a time with social media and fashion blogs, tuning in to see the red carpet and that feeling like a special thing seems to have passed. The hosts are never funny and they feel the need to just make fun of the whole endeavor which undercuts the experience. And they’re way too long. It’s really just an industry giving itself awards – I wouldn’t want to watch any other industry I’m not a part of give itself annual awards. It’s weird when you think about it. Time to totally rethink the format!

  11. Osty says:

    I am not surprised at the american viewership numbers , what I find funny is the 11 plus pple who watched it in the UK as opposed to the 800k who watched the MAGA 7 , the relevant ones , the darlings of our country’s commonwealth something.
    I bet bbc is angry with them for ” forcing ” them to back out of the bidding war

    Ps : I love the photo , so cute

    • My Two Cents says:

      I heard it was only 80,000 who watched Commonwealth program! yikes

    • heygingersnaps says:

      I avoided it like the plague. I don’t care to see their racist faces.

    • FicklePickle says:

      It was 12.4 million households, don’t know how many people that is but the UK only has 27.8 million households. Over 40% of the entire country!

  12. Seraphina says:

    The interview was way better than any awards show. We all knew this was the other side of what we had been seeing for years. I love how Oprah kept circling back on some questions. This felt like it was a sugar piece on the couple. Was there some staging, sure, but it was all masterfully done.

  13. Eleonor says:

    Of course the ratings skyrocketed!
    Internet is full of people commenting this, people can’t stop talking, and even if you don’t follow the RF at a certain point you feel the need to watch the interview, only to have your own opinion.
    And I can’t stop thinking if things were differents, completely different, how the Monarchy could have used this.

  14. Petra says:

    I’ve re-watched the interview again and didn’t bother to skip pass the commercials. I almost cried during the Airbnb commercial.
    I was already a fan of Meghan and Harry, my love for them this past week was at a crazy level. I did something that I’m ashamed of and I deeply regret on this site. I sworn at someone on this site last week. To the person I sworn at, I’m very sorry I did that to you. My action was uncalled for, once again I’m sorry to put that negativity on you. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

  15. Petra says:

    This is a beautiful picture of a lovely family.

  16. Lauren says:

    Even once they include the streaming data, it will still be lower than the real number. I was watching on zoom from someone hosting from the US with another couple hundred people. And I know that there were several viewing parties like that.

  17. Talia says:

    This seems remarkably low. There were 11.4 million people watching it in the U.K. when it was on. I know they are members of the U.K. Royal family but I would have thought more people would be interested in the US.

    I suspect the figures in the U.K. will go up – it went on to nearly 11 on a work night and I did consider not staying up but rather watching it on catch up TV.

    • lulu brown says:

      I think those are two separate numbers. 17.1 mIllion people tuned in to watch it live on CBS on Sunday night. It was aired in the Uk last night with a viewing audience of 11.4 million, giving it a total of 28.5 million, is my understanding?

    • lulu brown says:

      I think those are two separate numbers. 11.4 million through ITV reporting last night numbers in the UK, and the US had 17.1 Through CBS Sunday night ratings. With a total of 28.5 million watched between Sunday in the Us and Monday in the UK. That My understanding.

    • kesley says:

      The U.S. numbers are just those who have a Nielsen box. A lot of people do not have Nielsen boxes and their TV viewership isn’t really counted. Many, many people in the U.S. watched either through streaming, VPNs, or who don’t have a Nielsen box. There are also people who DVRed it and either will watch it or watched it later. The +7 numbers will be out this week.

      My conservative guess is that it was closer to 30 million (maybe higher) who watched here in the U.S. I think the UK total numbers will be higher as well.

    • FicklePickle says:

      The numbers I’ve seen from the UK were 12.4 million HOUSEHOLDS, nothing about people. Which, considering the UK only has 27.8 million households, is a little over 40% of the entire country.

      • Larry says:

        For both the UK and the US – as others pointed out – viewers watching on catch-up will be added in due course. The interview has been sold to a lot of other countries (can’t remember how many – 20? 30? can anyone tell me whether Germany bought it so I can watch it?), so all in all that will be a MASSIVE viewership.

  18. Mrs. Smith says:

    Nielsen data only measures tv ratings—those who watched it on television (not via streaming). The 3rd paragraph states it was the most -streamed program, so they aren’t sharing numbers there yet, but I bet it was hefty.

  19. Midnight@theOasis says:

    Such a beautiful family picture. Just lovely. All the best to the Sussex family.

  20. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    Dear Oprah…
    Can we puleeeeeeeeze see the footage that didn’t make it?
    Asking for millions of H&M’s fans
    Thank you

  21. Izzy says:

    Didn’t Petty Betty’s Commonwealth speech bring in, like, 80,000 viewers or something ridiculous? And to think, if they had just treated her decently and defended that family, she could have made one mention of Meghan and Archie in her speech and viewers would have gone bonkers for it.

  22. Onomo says:

    Some tweets and instagram reposts I saw on the interview that I thought were good-
    -”You can’t expect the nation that invented white supremacy to be anything other than white supremacist.” – sonofbaldwin/Robert Jones Jr.
    -there’s no way, with all Oprah has lived and seen, that she was surprised by white people talking about how dark Archie’s skin would be.” – can’t remember, on Twitter
    – “did anyone else find it weird the word Black was never used?” – Ericka Hart, professor of sexuality
    -”Colorism got Meghan into the royal family but racism kicked her out.” – unattributed on Insta
    -”I’m upset that people seem angrier at Meghan’s issues navigating her identity than at the white supremacist world that made threats at her. ” – comment on Instagram
    -Meghan educating Harry on what racism is, and then having to speak to the family and the world about it, is what it’s like as a Black woman dating a white man. – harlemlovebirds and Ericka Hart on Instagram

  23. Onomo says:

    Oh and one more!

    “Who would have ever thought the British Royal Family could be so uncaring and ruthless?” /sarcasm- Irish people everywhere, via twitter

  24. BeeCee says:

    Does anyone know where to stream the interview now?
    I don’t have cable (only Amazon Prime, Netflex, Disney, and Crave), and I’ve been really hoping to watch the interview!
    Seeing small 3-5 minutes clips doesn’t do it justice!

    • Onomo says:

      Beecee if you are in the US you can watch it on cbs dot com. not sure about other countries.

    • MsIam says:

      I believe you can go to CBS.com and watch it. However, in a few days it will probably be up on YouTube. That’s where I watched the James Cordon interview.

    • Nic919 says:

      If you are in Canada try Global tv which aired it here. Also they are going to re air it on Friday at 8 pm. That’s really unheard of in the age of PVR and streaming.

  25. MsIam says:

    This picture is so beautiful, even more than the pregnancy announcement one. They look so peaceful, I hope they are left alone.

  26. Sansa says:

    with streaming, private watch parties, non-Nielsen families, maybe eventual youtube upload et cetera, these numbers will be much higher in actuality. and a 2.6 in the demo?? that’s huge! cbs must be patting themselves on the back.

  27. Alexandria says:

    I was scrambling and found it on some website that screened live tv around the world. So I doubt my number was captured.

    The interview was way better than I expected. I feel it was as they say Oprah’s best because Meghan and Harry are great interviewees! Meghan as we know is already a very good speaker and Harry was earnest and not fudging around. There were times when they were measured and held back but we can still understand what they were saying or trying to not say. Meghan’s simple and powerful clarification on privacy and that rude and racism are not the same are genius. She’s very good.

  28. Amando says:

    I streamed it yesterday and it was a great interview. I wish they had aired all 3 hours of their conversation unedited.

  29. Ann says:

    I am out of town and don’t have cable so I followed on Twitter and watched the clips that were available there. I will watch when I get home. I am sure there are tons of people like me who had to access it in other ways for various reasons, or chose to.

  30. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    I FINALLY got to stream the interview. I think that H&M were far too discreet and gracious to that family. As a Mom and a grandmother I was by turns furious and deeply offended by the remarks about Archie’s skin color.
    I am so glad they are out of that toxic, soul destroying environment
    I would really like Oprah to put together the footage that didn’t make it out.