Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drew a huge audience to CBS this Sunday evening, attracting approximately 17.18 million viewers throughout its two-hour broadcast and a 1.45 rating in the adults, aged 18-49 key demographic.
Compared with last Sunday night’s 78th Golden Globe Awards, which garnered a bleak 6.9 million viewers and a 1.5 rating among the key demo, TV watchers showed up in droves for (technically) ex-British royalty over Hollywood royalty. The sit-down in an estate’s green and flourishing patio, was anything but casual as Oprah showcased the strongest aspects of her journalistic chops and grilled the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with a slew of follow-up questions that led to surprising (and, occasionally disturbing) revelations of what went down behind the scenes in the palace’s walls, per the couple. This was CBS’s most live-streamed event outside of the NFL and Super Bowl Sunday this 2020-2021 season.
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The buzzy interview, which drove 12 billion potential social media impressions, drew the largest primetime audience since the Academy Awards on February 9, 2020, and for any entertainment special during the 2020-2021 season (in Nielsen fast national ratings for March 7). In the week leading up to the event, chatter about the potentially revelatory conversation drove 28.8 billion potential impressions per a statement released by CBS. The special dominated the night on Twitter, with Meghan trending within the top 10 in the United States for 12 hours. Moreover, the hashtags and names #OprahMeghanHarry, Archie, Kate, Charles, Diana, William and Royal all trended within the top 10 last night.
The early Nielsen Live+Same Day fast affiliate-based ratings for the Harry and Meghan special are not entirely accurate because they do not reflect the viewership of the special on the West Coast, where it undoubtedly brought in big numbers as well. Sporting events and other live telecasts are typically undercounted due to fast nationals only measuring what was on in primetime in the Pacific Time Zone (mostly what aired after the major special debuted on CBS from 8 to 10 p.m. ET).
This story will be updated Tuesday morning to reflect more accurate time zone-adjusted numbers from Nielsen after the broadcast finals.
According to Nielsen Live+Same Day fast affiliate-based rankings, CBS’s “60 Minutes” at 7 p.m. was the second most-watched broadcast during the evening based on both ratings sorted by the 18-49 demographic and ratings sorted by total viewers. The long-running televised newsmagazine delivered 9.79 million viewers and drew a 0.8 rating, up significantly by 20.49% and 25%, respectively, compared with last week’s episode. “60 Minutes’” performance, which is usually one of the primetime frontrunners on any given Sunday night, was likely further bolstered by the interview’s premiere in the subsequent hour-long window. CBS ended the night strong with an encore episode of “The Equalizer” series reboot starring Queen Latifah at 10 p.m., which drew a 0.7 rating and 5.68 million viewers, positioning the show squarely in third place for ratings sorted by total viewers and in fourth for ratings sorted by the 18-49 demographic.
Additionally, The CW forewent its usual Sunday slate of “Batwoman” and “Charmed” to air the “26th Annual Critic’s Choice Awards” at 8 p.m., hosted by Broadway superstar and singer Taye Diggs for his third year in a row. The in-person/virtual hybrid ceremony obtained a mere 0.1 rating in the key demo and 0.34 million viewers (evidencing yet again that more eyes and ears were fixated on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s shocking revelations than on celebrating celebrities).
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