Making the Upfront Its OWN

Oprah’s net will pitch its appeal to a wide swath of women
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OWN is heading into the upfront season as a brand on a roll. The network, named for founder and CEO Oprah Winfrey, finished 2018 as one of the top-rated cable networks among African-American women with such scripted shows as Greenleaf, Queen Sugar and The Haves and The Have Nots.

The channel, owned by Discovery Inc. and Harpo Studios, is taking a two-pronged approach to the upfront market, building on its appeal to female African-Americans while looking to attract advertisers targeting adult women age 25-54. Discovery executive vice president of national ad sales Karen Grinthal and OWN president Tina Perry spoke with Multichannel News about OWN’s positioning heading into this year’s upfronts.

Karen Grinthal

Karen Grinthal

MCN: What is OWN’s strategy heading into the upfront?
Karen Grinthal: I think OWN has a wonderful position in this marketplace. It is a unique brand, we speak to our audience in a way that no one else does, and I think there’s a hunger and need for the kind of connection that we bring for advertisers. The relationships and conversations are very deep … we’re solving the problem of how to speak authentically to black women and make them feel like they are seen.

Tina Perry

Tina Perry

Tina Perry: We’re so proud of the success that we’ve had with African-American women — we are the number one destination for African-American women because we provide a place where this important audience can see themselves reflected in our programming. 2018 was a tremendous year for us. We had five of the top 20 original scripted series on ad-supported cable among all women 25-54 and African-American women, and our hit dramas like Greenleaf, Queen Sugar and The Haves and the Have Nots continue to resonate with our audiences.

MCN: How are you positioning OWN to advertisers within the Discovery portfolio?
KG: We have the clout of being within the Discovery networks and great quality brands, and OWN stands in a separate place within the portfolio because it’s the only network that has scripted drama. We have the clout of being part of Discovery and the ability to really dig in with advertisers for all of their needs. We’re playing in two different marketplaces — we’re in the general marketplace with women 25-54 and with African-American [female] viewers. I think every category needs to reach this audience, and what’s happening is that we’re speaking to advertisers in everything from insurance to retail to auto to [pharmaceuticals] to beauty and health. Every single category knows that if you can speak authentically to and trust an audience, that’s the basis of success for them.

MCN: How will OWN look to build on the success of its scripted lineup in 2019?
TP: We are going to keep building on our successes with Greenleaf, Queen Sugar, Iyanla: Fix My Life, by just expanding the roster of storytellers we work with. I’m excited about two new dramas ahead of us, including Ambitions from Will Packer, which is a juicy, sexy nighttime soap opera drama that stars Robin Givens and will premiere in June. The next series I’m really excited about is a prestige drama that will be on our air in August, David Makes Man. [Moonlight co-writer] Tarell Alvin McCraney is the producer on that as well as Michael B. Jordan and Oprah Winfrey. On the unscripted side are two new seasons of Will Packer’s dating series Ready to Love, as well as Love & Marriage: Huntsville.

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