Oprah's Ratings Lesson: Book Stars

Oprah Winfrey's March 11 interview with Whitney Houston's family underscores the importance of Winfrey being on OWN. Oprah's Next Chapter drew 3.5 million viewers, tripling anything shown on the struggling 15-month-old cabler. (OWN's previous best was an interview with Joel Osteen, watched by 1.6 million.) But can a weekly spike from Winfrey save the low-rated network? "You have to start with one hit and build out from there," observes Horizon Media's Brad Adgate. OWN upped Next Chapter to twice-weekly installments in February with mixed results, and like her once-dominant syndicated talk show, Next Chapter's ratings are largely guest-driven. A Feb. 19 show featuring Tony Robbins drew barely 500,000 viewers. The moral: "She should use all her leverage [to book big guests]," says Adgate. Lady Gaga sits down with Winfrey on March 18.

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