Harry and Meghan's interview nets 17 million viewers

Harry and Meghan’s interview nets 17 million viewers to become the second most watched non-sports broadcast this TV season after CBS paid up to $9M to Oprah to air her bombshell interview

  • CBS on Sunday aired Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which drew at least 17.1 million viewers 
  • Two-hour interview is second most watched non-sports program in the US so far this year 
  • Premiere of Queen Latifah’s new drama The Equalizer after Super Bowl in February drew 20.4 viewers  
  • Super Bowl LV pulled 96.4 million viewers, the lowest rating in nearly 15 years 
  • Meghan revealed she was suicidal while pregnant with son Archie, but claimed she was denied help by the palace 
  • Both Meghan and Harry told Oprah there were ‘concerns and conversations’ about the skin color of their unborn son 
  • Oprah’s 1993 interview with Michael Jackson drew an audience of 90million viewers worldwide – fourth-highest total in entertainment television history
  • In the UK, where interview will air on ITV on Monday night, it is expected to draw an audience of more than 10million 

Oprah Winfrey’s blockbuster interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Sunday proved to be a ratings bonanza for CBS, drawing more than 17 million viewers. 

CBS reportedly paid Oprah’s Harpo Productions between $7 million and $9 million for the rights to air the interview, but Oprah stressed at the beginning of the broadcast that Harry and Meghan were not compensated in exchange for speaking to her. 

During the highly-anticipated two-hour conversation with Oprah, the couple painted a deeply unflattering picture of life inside the royal household and the duchess spoke about her thoughts of suicide.

According to preliminary Nielsen numbers, the interview pulled in 17.1 million viewers, and scored a rating of 2.6 among the 18-49 demographic, becoming the second most watched non-sports entertainment program in the US so far this year, behind the February premiere of Queen Latifah’s new drama, The Equalizer, which aired after the Super Bowl and pulled 20.4 million viewers. 

The numbers for Oprah’s interview are expected to rise when CBS releases final official data later on Monday.  

In February, Super Bowl IV, in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounced the Kansas City Chiefs, drew a total audience of 96.4 million viewers, the lowest rating in nearly 15 years. 

CBS on Sunday aired Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, which netted 17.1 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers 

The wide-ranging two-hour special covered Meghan’s thoughts of suicide during her first pregnancy and claims of racism within the royal family 

While a ratings success for CBS, the preliminary 17.1 million audience was well below that of last year’s Oscars telecast at 23.6 million. 

TOP TV BROADCASTS OF 2021:

Super Bowl LV: 96.4 million viewers 

Biden inauguration: 33.8 million viewers 

The Equalizer premiere: 20.4 million viewers 

Oprah’s Harry and Meghan interview: 17.1 million viewers  

Alex Trebek’s last Jeopardy! episode: 14 million viewers 

78th Golden Globes Awards: 6.9 million viewers  

 

Oprah’s royal interview was on par with Diane Sawyer’s 2015 sit-down with Caitlyn Jenner during her transition, which drew 16.9 million viewers, but that broadcast scored a rating of 6.8 rating in the key demographic, compared to Oprah’s 2.6 rating.  

According to an article published by The Sunday Times ahead of the broadcast, in the UK, where the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan will be aired on ITV on Monday night, it is expected to draw an audience of more than 10million viewers.

This would surpass the ratings for the finale of the UK version of the popular celebrity singing competition The Masked Singer, which became the most-watched broadcast on TV this year.

‘I think people believe that this will be the first time they are hearing from Meghan and Harry as themselves and not in a certain role where they need to be given speaking points or what not,’ Myka Meier, a royal analyst, told the Times before the interview aired in the US. 

Over the course of her boundary-breaking career in the news and entertainment industry spanning more than four decades, Oprah has interviewed some of the highest-profile figures in the world. 

She famously sat down for a confessional chat with Michael Jackson in 1993, an interview which saw 90million worldwide viewers tune in, making it the fourth-highest total in entertainment television history.

In the UK, where the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan will be aired on ITV on Monday night, it is expected to draw an audience of more than 10million

In February, Super Bowl LV, in which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs, drew a total audience of 96.4 million viewers, the lowest rating in nearly 15 years

Newspapers are placed on the ground placed by a television crew in front of Buckingham Palace in London on Monday

It is important to note that at the time of Oprah’s sitdown with the King of Pop there were only four broadcast networks in the US and no streaming services to draw away segments of the viewing audience.  

In 2013 she quizzed disgraced drug cheat cyclist Lance Armstrong, who finally came clean about his years of doping.

And it was Winfrey’s couch Tom Cruise jumped on during a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005 to proclaim his love for Katie Holmes.

The Harry and Meghan CBS interview was not Winfrey’s first brush with royalty.

Harry’s aunt, Sarah, Duchess of York, has also been interviewed by the talk show queen, and Oprah was among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor in 2018. 

Oprah’s 1993 interview with Michael Jackson drew an audience of 90million viewers worldwide – fourth-highest total in entertainment television history

Oprah has repeatedly interviewed Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, including in 2010

During the wide-ranging conversation, Meghan, 39, admitted that she was naive at the start of her relationship with Harry and unprepared for the strictures of royal life.

The former television star, who identifies as biracial, said that when she was pregnant with son, Archie, there were ‘concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.’

Harry confirmed the conversation, saying: ‘I was a bit shocked.’ He said he would not reveal who made the comment, but told Oprah behind the scenes that it not Queen Elizabeth II, nor Prince Phillip, who is 99 years old and currently in a London hospital after undergoing a heart procedure. 

Meghan, who is currently pregnant with her second child, a girl, told Oprah that at one point ‘I just didn’t want to be alive anymore’ and that she had uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. She said she sought help through the palace’s human resources department but was told there was nothing they could do. 

The pair, known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced they were quitting royal duties last year, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. 

That split, dubbed by the press as ‘Megxit,’ became official earlier this year, and the interview was widely seen as their first opportunity to explain their decision. 

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