Oprah charts comeback with big-name interviews (+video)
Oprah Winfrey is working to revive her OWN channel with more celebrity interviews, including the Kardashians. But Katie Couric is also vying for big-name interviews.
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"Doing an interview on one of those shows was like Johnny Carson asking you to come sit with him after you've done your stand-up," said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "If there was any equivalent to playing the Palace at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, being on 'Oprah' might have been it."Skip to next paragraph
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While Thompson said that "half the people can't find OWN on their cable television," that may underestimate Winfrey. The "Oprah's Next Chapter" episode with Houston's family in March premiered to 3.5 million people, Nielsen said. Many others heard about it or saw clips.
Winfrey's presence in daytime was a mixed blessing for veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. Most of his clients wanted to be on "Oprah" and were convinced they had a story she wanted to hear. When they did, it was great.
When they didn't, not so great. "It was a ton of pressure," he said, "and there's a part of me that is happy the pressure has lifted."
Now he can suggest a media strategy with interviewers who can reach his clients' target audiences. Bragman often goes retro, preferring the news divisions at broadcast television networks.
None has the impact that Winfrey had on a consistent basis, said Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Media.
Also missing from the scene is CNN's Larry King, who didn't have the same juice as Winfrey but had a friendly reputation that made him a popular stop for people with hard stories to tell. King's replacement, Piers Morgan, is not as established and is dragged down by CNN's ratings problems.
Katie Couric, whose daytime talk show starts in the fall, could be Winfrey's true heir as an interviewer in daytime. Her lengthy tenure at NBC's "Today" show makes her able to deftly switch from world leaders to actors to quirky celebrities enjoying 15 minutes of fame. "Not many people can do that," Bragman said.