Despite lots of heavy media hype and dramatic promos, “The Exclusive,” Lindsay Lohan’s post-rehab interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday, failed to give much of a bump to the OWN show’s ratings.
While the OWN-distributed ratings press release declared that Winfrey’s sit-down with the embattled actress was “one of the top five most social series on cable Sunday night,” according to social TV metrics company SocialGuide, the interview featured on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” averaged 892,000 total viewers at 9 p.m., a mere 7 percent above the show’s Sunday average. The 10 p.m. re-broadcast attracted 1.8 million viewers.
Representatives for OWN stated that it was the second highest Sunday telecast of the Winfrey-helmed program since September of last year. But, as Deadline Hollywood points out, this is no great feat considering Winfrey’s heart-to-heart with Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina in March last year pulled 3.5 million viewers, while her January segment with disgraced champion cyclist Lance Armstrong logged 3.2 million. And while the Lohan/Winfrey chit-chat was going down, the season six finale of HBO’s “True Blood” generated an average viewership of 4.1 million while AMC’s “Breaking Bad” welcomed a whopping 4.8 million watchers.
So what does this lack of audience attention mean for Lohan’s umpteenth career comeback? Will fans and production companies continue to stand behind her?
“Lindsay wasn’t sympathetic and we never emotionally rooted for her recovery. Now interesting has been replaced with generic,” image expert Tamara Jacobs told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “She’s lost her brand status as the ‘troubled star,’ and we will move on as she gets on with her lower profile, less interesting and less fun-to-watch rehabilitated life.”
Yet some critics argue Sunday night’s low numbers were simply a result of the Lohan/ Winfrey combination.
“The interview was so devoid of anything sensational that we spent much of it studying the cubby storage units in the background...And so weak compared with Oprah’s past interviews with troubled stars,” Julie Miller wrote in Vanity Fair this week. “Oprah – possibly so desperate for Lohan-related ratings – lets slide myriad cliché statements masquerading as answers to her urgent questions.”
Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly’s Lanford Beard added: “Am I the only one wondering how Barbara Walters can make Oscar nominees at the peak of their careers weep like children, while Oprah interviews fallen idols who are still clawing out of a self-created abyss and gets basically nothing?”
After launching in 2011, OWN endured serious ratings concerns, even after Discovery advanced it over $500 million the following year. But earlier this month Winfrey insisted that her network was finally “on the rise and making money,” and in July it was reported that it had reached a cash flow positive status, which means that it was starting to pay down Discovery’s investment in the project.
“Oprah is, of course, a living legend – her star will always shine brightly. But in many ways, there’s no question that OWN doesn’t command the same attention as national TV did. Perhaps this interview on another network would have done better,” said Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York-based firm 5WPR. “But the bottom line is Lindsay Lohan has a very long road to recovery – and whether it’s a soft ball or hard-hitting interview doesn’t matter, it’s simply too soon to believe that her comeback is real.”
Lohan is currently filming a docu-series for the OWN network, revolving around the challenges of staying sober and getting her life back on track, so perhaps the biggest test is yet to come. Can she do it? And does anybody out there still care?
A rep for Lohan did not respond to a request for comment.