OWN Sees Ad Prices Leap for Lance Armstrong Special

Selling Both Nights as a $100,000 Package, Buyers Say

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OWN is getting a hefty premium for advertising spots during Oprah Winfrey's highly anticipated two-part interview with Lance Armstrong, according to media buyers.

Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey
Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey Credit: OWN

"Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive" is notching about $100,000 for a two-unit package, with advertisers getting a spot in both nights of the special, according to buyers. That's about 40% to 50% more than advertisers would have paid for that much time during other major interviews or specials on OWN, they estimated. It is still less, however, than top cable shows typically command.

The anticipated confession by Mr. Armstrong regarding using performance-enhancing drugs has caused a media firestorm. Looking to capitalize on the media hype, OWN expanded the special from one night to two. The network is also streaming the interview on Oprah.com.

Demand for spots has been robust, with a majority of inventory selling out, according to another buyer, as the industry expects the interview to garner ratings beyond anything OWN has seen in the past. OWN's highest-rated interview to date, with Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina, was watched by about 3.5 million people.

While buyers do not expect the interview to allow the network to attract higher ad rates on a regular basis, it could be a good opportunity for OWN to attract new advertisers and viewers.

An OWN spokeswoman did not respond to requests to comment.

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.

Ms. Winfrey said on "CBS This Morning" earlier in the week that Mr. Armstrong had come clean to her about using performance-enhancing drugs during the taping of the interview.

The Oprah Winfrey Network struggled at the outset, failing to build regular viewership even among fans of Ms. Winfrey's syndicated show. But OWN has been doing better, fueled partly by the major interviews she has been able to secure. Ms. Winfrey's interview with Rihanna, in which the singer confessed to still having feelings for Chris Brown, drew 2.5 million viewers. 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 recent improvement, but other shows such as "Iyanla: Fix My Life" and "Welcome to Sweetie Pies" have also helped. Executives hope its next phase of programming, led by scripted series from Tyler Perry beginning later this year, will expand regular audiences further.

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