MILLIONS of people are expected to watch Lance Armstrong confess to using performance-enhancing drugs in a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey beginning this evening, likely giving her OWN cable network its largest audience ever.
The challenge for OWN will be convincing those who tune in to come back to the network afterwards. Comedian Michael Ian Black summed up the enormity of that task by tweeting: "Like most of America, really torn between wanting to see Lance confess and never wanting to watch OWN."
Oprah's interview with Armstrong is event programming akin to the Super Bowl or the Oscars.
But the future success of the network, which is co-owned by Discovery Communications, will hinge on its ability to transform a portion of the audience that tunes in for the interview into regular viewers.
"Sustaining interest on a consistent basis is the problem," said Magid and Associates TV consultant Steve Ridge. "It is much like CNN getting big numbers during a major disaster, or the Weather Channel getting heavy viewership during major weather events."
OWN plans to highlight its other programming in an effort to capitalise on the Armstrong audience.
The network will promote upcoming shows, including Sunday's edition of Oprah's Next Chapter, in which Winfrey interviews actress Drew Barrymore, as well as Our America with Lisa Ling, a documentary series that has its season premiere on Tuesday.