Interesting times lie ahead, royal fans.
In just over a week the best TV interviewer in history will sit down with one of the most famous couples on the planet for the first tell-all chat they’ve granted since gapping it from their royal lives.
Little wonder then that the race is on for broadcasting rights. But as always, it’s complicated.
March 7 isn’t only the date of Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview – it’s also the date Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are set to appear in a special televised broadcast to celebrate Commonwealth Day.
They’ll go first, a couple of hours later, it’s O in the couch with the Sussexes.
The Commonwealth Day service, usually attended by about 2 000 people, is one of the highlights of the queen’s diary. It was due to be held on 8 March, as it has been every year since 1972, but due to the pandemic it’s been replaced by a solely televised programme the day before.
The decision, royal insiders say, was made at the start of February, days before Oprah’s interview was announced by US TV network CBS.
But who will be screening the show in the UK?
It’s understood Viacom CBS Global Distribution Group, which will be selling the programme overseas, is keen for the tell-all to appear on a free-to-air broadcaster to ensure large viewership figures. And, of course, rake in the big bucks with advertisers.
At this stage, it looks likely free-to-air station ITV is the frontrunner, beating Sky to the lion’s share of the primetime pie. Streaming giants Amazon and Netflix – the latter of which has signed a multi-million deal with the Sussexes – are not bidding for airing rights.
The BBC, which recently launched an investigation into how BBC Panorama secured an interview with Harry's mother Princess Diana in 1995, isn’t involved in the process. The corporation will be broadcasting the queen’s Commonwealth Day speech.
Her Majesty is likely to speak words of comfort and compassion to nations in distress – but let’s face it: the Oprah interview is the one we all really want to see.
According to CBS, the focus will be mainly on Meghan, who’ll discuss “stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood, to how she is handling life under intense public pressure”.
The 39-year-old will later be joined by Prince Harry as they talk about their experience of leaving the royal fold, their move to the US and their future plans.
The sit-down is a major coup for Oprah, who’s a friend of the Sussexes, and sources say the royal family will “want to hide behind the couch” at times.
However, there are also reports parts of the interview had to re-shot as the show was filmed shortly before the couple were stripped of their last remaining royal patronages by the queen.
“They spoke as if they still had royal roles to play,” a source told The Sun.
Some scenes were also apparently redone out of respect to the queen and Prince Philip, who remains in hospital after becoming unwell.
However it plays out, it’s bound to be compelling viewing. Because this is Oprah – and if anyone knows how to get the most of out of people, it’s this formidable media mogul.
Here are some of her most memorable celebrity interviews.
Liberace – 1986
The flamboyant pianist, who appeared on an episode in the first season and played a medley of Christmas songs, was one of Oprah’s biggest early guests. He died six weeks later, making it his final public appearance.
Elizabeth Taylor – 1988
Oprah experienced one of her worst interviews when a tight-lipped Elizabeth Taylor appeared on her show and said practically nothing. “It’s still painful to watch,” the TV veteran has admitted.
Michael Jackson – 1993
The King of Pop invited O to his Neverland Ranch for an uncharacteristically revealing interview, during which he spoke about his relationship with his father and admitted he had the skin condition vitiligo. At the time it was the most-watched interview in television history.
Ellen DeGeneres – 1997
Soon after announcing in Time magazine that she was gay, Ellen appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to address her sexuality. Oprah later appeared on Ellen’s sitcom, Ellen, making a cameo as the therapist to whom the title character came out.
Celine Dion – 1999
At the peak of her career, the Canadian superstar sat down with Oprah to bid farewell to her fans. At the age of 31, Celine stunned the music world when she announced her indefinite exit from show business. The singer expressed the importance of being with her family and her husband René, who had just completed cancer treatment.
Nelson Mandela – 2000
In what she’s hailed as “the interview of a lifetime”, Oprah sat down with former president Madiba, who opened up about his struggles, including the 27 years he spent in prison and the impact that had on his family.
Tom Cruise – 2005
The actor famously shook Oprah and jumped on her couch to declare his love for Dawson’s Creek alum Katie Holmes. It was pure TV gold – cringeworthy though it undoubtedly was.
Whitney Houston – 2009
The revealing interview was filmed over two episodes and featured insights about Whitney’s drug use (''I was lacing marijuana with rock cocaine'') and her tumultuous marriage and divorce from Bobby Brown (''he was emotionally abusive''; ''the lowest point? he spat on me'').
Barack and Michelle Obama – 2011
For the first time in the show's history, a sitting president and first lady appeared together on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Barack and Michelle visited their old hometown of Chicago for a landmark interview with the queen of talk.
Sources: variety.com, dailymail.co.uk, ew.com theguardian.co.uk, townandcountrymag.com, oprah.com, omny.fm