OWN Looks for Ratings Momentum


In its first month on the air, Oprah
Winfrey’s new cable network posted doubledigit
ratings increases in primetime viewership
over the Discovery Health Channel it replaced,
but it’s still far from its goal of doubling Discovery
Health’s primetime numbers.

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a partnership
between Discovery Communications and
Winfrey’s Harpo Inc., averaged 362,000 prime
time viewers, up 31% from Discovery Health’s
277,000 last year, according to Nielsen. Among
the network’s core audience of women aged 25-
54, the network has averaged 119,000 viewers, up
28% from Discovery Health’s 93,000 viewers in

OWN, which launched Jan. 1, set doubling Discovery
Health’s 2010 primetime average of 252,000 viewers as one
of its ratings goals for the year. The network’s January performance
means it’s off to a good start, OWN CEO Christina
Norman said.

“We’ve seen some nice growth in primetime, and we see
some trending going the way we want it to, but we have
to make sure we continue to deliver that,” she said. “The
core audience is really satisfied with what they’ve seen —
they came here for Oprah, and they got Oprah, and they’ve
been exposed to some new ideas as well.”

On a 24-hour basis, OWN is up 21% over Discovery
Health in total viewers and 20% among women 25-54, according
to Nielsen.

Overall, the network drew a cumulative 37.7 million
viewers. Eighty-two percent of its core 25-54 female audience
who tuned in during the network’s launch weekend
have come back to watch more of OWN.

The network will look to continue its primetime ratings
momentum in February, launching four new shows during
the month. Joining the OWN lineup are a new investigative
series, Our America With Lisa Ling; Breaking Down
the Bars
, which follows the lives of inmates in an Indiana
women’s prison; Searching for …, which follows investigative
genealogist Pam Slaton; and What Would You Do?, an
acquisition from ABC News which looks at how people react
to unusual, staged situations.

The shows join the seven originals on OWN’s schedule
at launch, including Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,
which is averaging a network-high 602,000 viewers on Friday
nights. Norman added that the show, which looks at
the making of the syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show, enjoys
a 51% ratings increase when live-plus-7 digital video
recorder viewing numbers are added in.

By comparison, the show’s lead-out, Your OWN Show:
Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star
has struggled from a
ratings standpoint. The reality competition show, whose
winner gets to host a show on the network, is averaging
about 400,000 viewers.

Norman said the early success of Behind the Scenes
doesn’t necessarily mean that the network needs to schedule
more primetime content featuring Winfrey to signifi -
cantly boost its ratings. “I think we’ve seen great response
from people for the non-Oprah shows as well,” she said.
“We know our audiences love the Oprah stuff, but our
growth is going to come from people beyond just the core
Oprah fan.”

In daytime, Norman said The Gayle King Show, a live
talk show, is performing well. “Gayle is developing her
voice and its someplace that we need to double down on,”
she said. “The thing about a daily talk show is that you get
a chance to do it again and improve it over time.”