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Armstrong Confession Draws OWN’s Second-Biggest Audience

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with cyclist Lance Armstrong attracted the second-largest audience ever to her OWN television network, missing the record set last year with members of Whitney Houston’s family.

Last night’s telecast drew 3.2 million viewers and 1.1 million more in a rerun, Los Angeles-based OWN said today in an e-mailed statement. The Houston family interview last March 11 attracted an audience of 3.5 million.

The interview with the seven-time Tour de France winner, who was stripped of his medals last year, comes as Winfrey’s cable network, co-owned with Discovery Communications Inc., seeks to lift ratings and break even in the second half of the year. Armstrong, 41, ended 13 years of denials by admitting for the first time he had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Part 2 of the interview is slated to run tonight. Part 1 was the highest rated weekday telecast ever for OWN, the network said. The interview was streamed 600,000 times, with viewers watching online from 190 countries.

Discovery, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, gained 0.6 percent to $67.72 at the close in New York. The stock advanced 55 percent in 2012.

Winfrey, 58 has boosted the audience of OWN since taking over as chief executive officer in July 2011 and hosting “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” She also scored ratings wins interviewing Rihanna and pastor Joel Osteen.

Program Slate

“Our America With Lisa Ling,” “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” and “Six Little McGhees” were among OWN’s most-watched programs, the network said on Jan. 4.

The network expects to reach about 85 million U.S. cable TV homes by May, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said at a Dec. 4 investor conference. He reiterated the company’s projection that OWN would break even in the second half of 2013.

The network increased its average prime-time audience by 61 percent to 328,000 viewers in the fourth quarter of 2012 from a year earlier. Almost three-fourths were female, according to Nielsen data.

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