Hoping to build on its ratings momentum, OWN will launch the first of its Tyler Perry-produced scripted series with an eye on reaching African- American viewers.
The two series — drama series The Haves and the Have Nots, set to premiere May 28, and sitcom Love Thy Neighbor, debuting May 29 with two back-to-back half-hour episodes — are OWN’s first scripted projects. The shows are also the first as part of a multiseries deal with Perry, who has proven track record in cable with the success of TBS series House of Payne, Meet the Browns and For Better or for Worse.
OWN co-president Erik Logan said the two Perry series would complement the network’s expanding portfolio of original series that includes its successful Saturday night lineup of reality- based shows, such as Iyanla: Fix My Life, Life with La Toya and Raising Whitley. The network’s April 13 premiere of Life With La Toya, which follows the life of singer and TV personality La Toya Jackson, set a network series debut record with 1.2 million viewers.
“When we made [the Tyler Perry deal] a year ago, the network was in a different place — we knew we had much better programming coming, but you never know if it’s going to connect with viewers,” Logan said. “We’ve been fortunate that the new shows have made that connection, and because of that connection we have a much stronger base to launch Tyler Perry from.”
Logan would not give a prediction on how well the two series would perform, but did say he’s hopeful the duo will continue the ratings momentum the network has enjoyed over the past year. The network posted a 4% primetime viewership increase in total viewers during first quarter 2013, averaging 352,000 viewers.
“I think Tyler’s impact will certainly be felt,” Logan said.” We don’t have any grand expectations to quantify it; we’re just excited to get the first shows on the air. We feel that the shows are going to make an impact, but it’s such an unknown how scripted is going to perform on our network.”
The shows will hopefully improve the network’s Tuesday- and Wednesday-night lineups, which currently feature acquired programming, he added.
“We’re not programming originals [then], so from a time period and improvement perspective we think that’s a positive and those are two good nights and we’re launching at the right time of the year,” he said.
OWN is also hoping the two Tyler Perry series will help the network continue to connect with African- American viewers, who watch more television than any other group.
To date, OWN has increased its total primetime African-American viewership by 27% since fourth quarter 2012 and 33% among African American women 25 to 54, according to Nielsen. Overall, African-Americans make up 39% of OWN’s overall primetime audience, said Nielsen.
Along with the Perry shows, Logan said the network will return reality series Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, which focuses on an African-American owned soul food restaurant, as well as launch a new series, Six Little McGhees, about a family of sextuplets.
“We had only seen one non-Oprah show become a hit and that was Sweetie Pie’s, which really connected with the African-American audience. At that time we immediately said we need to continue to nurture and grow that audience,” Logan said.
“But if you take a step back and look at the OWN brand its very diverse, and the diversity of that brand is something that we’re focusing on. [The Haves and the Have Nots] features a very diverse cast, so from a network point of view, that is what the network is. But when you have an audience coming to you, inevitably you want to feed that audience, which is what we’re doing.”
OWN hopes its first pair of Tyler Perry-created series will build on its ratings momentum and boost African-American viewership.