Oprah’s Meghan Markle, Prince Harry special draws record viewers for 2020-21

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex draw biggest primetime audience for an entertainment special since the 2020 Academy Awards

The CBS primetime special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry” on Sunday night averaged 17.1 million viewers to finish with the largest primetime audience for a non-sporting event during the 2020-21 television season.

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Oprah Winfrey’s two-hour interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry is now the most-watched Sunday primetime event, other than the Super Bowl, in over a year. It was the biggest primetime audience for an entertainment special since the 2020 Academy Awards.

Shares of CBS,  a unit of ViacomCBS which is run by CEO Bob Bakish, hit a record high.

The CBS primetime special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry” on Sunday night averaged 17.1 million viewers to finish with the largest primetime audience for a non-sporting event during the 2020-21 television season. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)

No question was off limits as the couple discussed their version of what happened over the last four years and led to them stepping back as senior members of the royal family and moving full time to the United States. The CBS special dominated social media throughout the night and into Monday morning as viewers were shocked by various revelations and residents of the U.K. reacted.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex both admitted that the unchecked racism in the U.K. tabloids and alleged lack of support from the royal family, the so-called "firm," were the two major driving forces behind their decision to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family.

The marked the first time that they were interviewed after stepping down from their royal duties. The duo’s lengthy two-hour interview covered a myriad of topics and gave them the chance to speak out seemingly unencumbered by royal influence for the first time.

During the interview, Markle and Prince Harry revealed the gender of the child they are expecting this summer, Markle spoke about her relationship with sister-in-law Kate Middleton and their alleged feud, and revealed that, when she was pregnant with their first child, there were "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born."

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Winfrey asked the Duchess of Sussex if the media attention had any impact on her mental health, prompting her to reveal she experienced suicidal thoughts and tried to seek help through the palace’s human resources department, but to no avail.

One of the more surprising revelations to emerge from the packed interview was the fact that the couple claims they held a private wedding ceremony prior to their massively public royal wedding in May 2018 that was watched by millions around the world.

Harry also told Winfrey that he felt "trapped" by royal life and was surprised that he was cut off financially and lost his security last year. He also said he felt his family did not support Markle, who acknowledged her naivete about royal life before marrying Harry, as she endured tabloid attacks and false stories.

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Markle noted that she feared not only for her husband’s safety but for the safety of their child as well.

The interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was also CBS’ most live-streamed event outside of the NFL and Super Bowl Sunday this season.

All data courtesy of Nielsen fast national ratings

Fox News’ Jessica Napoli and Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.