Former talk show diva Oprah Winfrey is in some boiling water. On Sunday night, Winfrey took to Twitter, urging viewers, especially Nielsen households, to watch the OWN network as opposed to the Grammy Awards. After breaking Nielsen’s cardinal rules of never influencing a viewer and their TV-watching habits, Winfrey issued an apology on Monday.
Nine-million Winfrey Twitter followers received the following tweet moments before her “Oprah’s Next Chapter” show began:
“Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Nielsen box.”
The responses from Winfrey’s tweet set off a firestorm, with many feeling that Oprah’s demands for her struggling cable channel were “desperate.” Winfrey defended her actions by tweeting back:
“The word ‘please’ is used as courtesy not a beg … ‘desperate’ not ever a part of my vocab … ‘unethical’ a little harsh don’t u think? Seemed like it made sense to me. Sorry if u’re offended.”
On Monday, Winfrey made the decision to remove the tweet that might have angered the higher-ups at the company that measures TV viewership according to household surveys across the country. According to theNew York Times, the apology came after Nielsen and OWN executives powwowed Monday morning.
Soon after, Winfrey tweeted:
“I removed the tweet at the request of Nielsen. I intended no harm and apologize for the reference.”
In response to the Winfrey Twitter brouhaha, Nielsen Spokesman Matt Anchin said in an e-mail:
“It is Nielsen’s policy to note attempts to single out panel members to either change their viewing habits or otherwise influence or affect their reporting.”
Still, there are consequences to Oprah’s ask: Nielsen has decided to add an asterisk to OWN’s ratings at the time of the Twitter plea and make a notation that there might have been some “possible biasing effect” with regards to the ratings.
Ironically, Winfrey seemed to have snuck a peek at the Grammys herself; she praised L.L. Cool J, the show’s host, and complimented Adele profusely.