Oprah Winfrey has gradually found a footing for her cable network with help from in-depth interviews with celebrities and public figures including Rihanna, Whitney Houston's family, the Kardashians and David Letterman. But her upcoming interview with Lance Armstrong could well surpass her prior successes.
Ms. Winfrey said on "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday that Mr. Armstrong had come clean to her about using performance-enhancing drugs during the taping of the interview.
Looking to capitalize on the media hype, OWN said today that it will expand Thursday's airing of the interview on "Oprah's Next Chapter" to two nights, adding an installment on Friday.
The interview will also be simultaneously streamed live both nights on Oprah.com.
It is the first interview for Mr. Armstrong since the seven-time Tour de France winner was stripped of his titles and dropped from millions of dollars in endorsement deals after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an extensive report accusing him of substance abuse throughout his career. Mr. Armstrong has been banned from competing professionally and last year resigned as chairman of the foundation he created, Livestrong, which raises money for cancer research.
It's Ms. Winfrey's ability to secure such high-profile guests that originally made the TV industry and advertisers excited about her plan for a new cable channel. But the Oprah Winfrey Network foundered in the early going, failing to find a purchase with even fans of Ms. Winfrey.
Now OWN seems to have found its footing, powered in part by big interviews -- and the opportunities they create to promote the network's other shows. Last March, the network brought in 3.5 million viewers for its interview with Ms. Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Ms. Winfrey's interview with Rihanna, in which the singer confessed to still having feelings for Chris Brown, drew 2.5 million viewers. And this summer's sit-down with the Kardashians brought in 1.1 million.
"Oprah's Next Chapter" has been the driver of much of the network's success, but OWN has found an audience for other non-Oprah shows, such as "Iyanla: Fix My Life" and "Welcome to Sweetie Pies."
The network will also enter its next phase of programming later this year with its first scripted series from Tyler Perry.