Oprah Winfrey Network Analysis - August 2011

Publish date:


* Bold denotes programming change


OWN launched by sprinkling Oprah-associated series on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and the schedule is evolving as new series roll out. By 2nd Quarter, original series episodes aired every night except Saturday, although the schedule continues to shift significantly from week to week.

Current series include medical mysteries, self-help, and celebrity-driven reality; Oprah has announced she will become a bigger on-air presence as production of her syndicated series has ceased. Specials and series from Discovery Health are also utilized.

The Prime scheduling strategy is set to shift in October, when the re-purposed "best-of-25-year-of-OPRAH" strip OWN YOUR LIFE  premieres weeknights at 8pm, following a 7pm strip of the new Rosie O'Donnell chat skein. This will leave only two hours per night for series, specials and movies, while providing Oprah's on-screen presence each night from 8-9pm to lead-in.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs. DSC Health August 2010  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

OWN launched 1/1/2011 to great media fanfare. For annual comparison purposes, we will look to the ratings of Discovery Health, which previously occupied OWN's channel position.

While Discovery Health was also driven by Female viewers, OWN  has been skewing significantly older since its launch. This trend declined somewhat in August 2011, with the Median Age having risen 7% over August 2010, compared with a 14% rise when the previous three months are compared to the same period in 2010.  HH and demo ratings declined modestly from 2010, and were flat compared with last month.

DR PHIL was the go-to series in August. In addition to holding down most of an 8pm strip until OWN YOUR LIFE premieres in October, DR. PHIL episodes filled Friday and Saturday nights for most of the survey. Filling nearly 1/3 of all Prime hours for August, the series was flat with its performance from last month.

Top specials in August featured sex and human oddities - similar topics to those which used to score well for Discovery Health.

August also saw the premiere of off-CBS series UNDERCOVER BOSS, which easily led the pack as the number one OWN offering this month. In an unorthodox scheduling move, three episodes of the new series were stacked on the third Sunday of the survey, and were immediately replaced by repeats of original series the following Sunday. UNDERCOVER BOSS was the undisputed top series for OWN this month, tripling the average HH Rating, and more than doubling the Prime demo delivery.

On Monday, new series SUPERSIZE VS. SKINNY replaced UNFAITHFUL: STORIES OF BETRAYAL and  THE DR. LAURA BERMAN SHOW  at 9 and10pm. Demos were up modestly compared to last month, and the new series generally improved its lead-in and grew from 9-11pm. While there was no visible growth from week to week through the survey, SUPERSIZE VS SKINNY actually lowered the Median Age by 10% on Monday, the only night of the week not to grow older compared to 2010.

Tuesday's new  News magazine, PRIMETIME ON OWN, which filled 8 of the 9 hours on the final three weeks of the July survey, was replaced by TURNING POINT at 9pm and KATIE MY BEAUTIFUL FRIEND at 10pm, leading to a slight downturn from July's HH and demo delivery. Numbers were down sharply from last year's Discovery Health ratings though, particularly among younger women. Neither of the new offerings gained any week-to-week traction among viewers in August, as the network continues to seek its first original series to find significant favor among viewers.

Wednesday featured a mix of series repeats and specials, with none standing out.

Thursday's top documentary was PROSTITUTION: LEAVING THE LIFE, but demos were down in the 30-40% range from last month and last year.

Friday's only highlight was a repeat of  600 LB MOM, which was the top special this night. A block of  DR. PHIL episodes filled the last two Fridays  of the survey. The night as a whole was essentially flat in demos from last month.

DR. PHIL blocks were slotted three weeks on Saturday, and outperformed a block of SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS which ran Week 3.Younger women grew slightly from last year, and demos were up modestly from July.

RYAN & TATUM: THE ONEALS  remains the top-rated original series on OWN, even in repeats, and led Sunday to 60%  demo increases over last month and 30% growth over July.


Although OWN is a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Oprah Winfrey's  Harpo Productions, the editorial direction comes strictly from Oprah herself. The network is keeping its development in the factual realm, with the twin themes of Self-Help and Self-Discovery as the filters through which new projects will be evaluated.

According to VP Programming and Development Danny Villa, shows need to have "intention and takeaway." OWN sees itself as the Network of Hope, as they seek to migrate the mass audience Oprah has built over 25 years to her new venture.

A quick yardstick for producers: If the subject works well on OPRAH!, it will likely find favor at OWN. They are currently looking for series that feature redemption stories, stories of women doing well in a man's world (and vice versa,) and those dealing with spirituality.

OWN is also in the market for formats and documentaries which connect with their core viewership.

OWN is staying away from elimination competition series, anything in the "wedding space," weight-loss, the paranormal, and almost anything dealing with kids, other than prodigies.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav recently announced an additional $50 million investment in programming for OWN, leading to a launch rate of 2 new shows per month for 2011. New series tend to be limited to six episodes or so, as the network tries as many different concepts and personalities as possible, in search of the building blocks for sustained growth.


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