NEWS ANALYSIS — In today’s fractured media landscape, generating more than a pulse among viewers is considered a win for programmers. Oprah Winfrey’s highly-publicized two-hour sit-down CBS interview with Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, featuring allegations of racism and suicidal thoughts during the couple’s brief existence within the British Royal Family, drew an impressive 17.1 million average viewers, according to the network.
The March 8 airing in the U.K. on ITV drew 11.1 million average viewers, peaking at more than 12.3 million. Another 2.2 million people streamed the Q&A. Media reports say online sales of the outdoor furniture Harry, Meghan and Oprah sat on sold out online. Heady stuff even in today’s influencer-dominated social media world.
But then CBS rookie cop TV series reboot “The Equalizer,” starring Queen Latifah, scored 11.1 million viewers through March 8. In fact, CBS’s venerable news magazine “60 Minutes” has scored some big celebrity interviews in recent years.
Porn star Stormy Daniels’ 2018 interview about her affair with married Donald Trump before he became president generated 22.1 million viewers. The show’s 2020 interview with Trump attracted 17.4 million viewers, despite being leaked online ahead of time by the president.
The show’s biggest Q&A: The Jan. 26, 1992, sit-down with presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, which attracted 34 million viewers in the pre-Internet days. CBS’s biggest-ever ratings — 45 million viewers — was for the 1977 David Frost interview with former President Nixon, who had resigned years earlier to avoid being impeached for the Watergate scandal.
When it comes to all-time Q&A ratings winners: The March 3, 1999, “20/20” interview on ABC with Monica Lewinsky drew 48.5 million viewers. But Oprah Winfrey’s Feb. 10, 1993, talk with Michael Jackson topped all with a massive 62.3 million viewers.