Oprah Winfrey Network Analysis - July 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 / July 2011 vs. DSC Health July 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  is skewing significantly older, with the Median Age having risen 14% when the last three months are compared to the same period in 2010.  HH and demo ratings declined from 2010, and were also down from last month in the 20% range.

After seven new series premiered over five different nights in June, July relied on repeats and specials.  Despite all of the relatively recent series material, specials and series from Discovery Health filled 8 of the top 13 program slots in July.

UNFAITHFUL: STORIES OF BETRAYAL led the pack on Monday at 9pm, followed by the latest series from Dr. Laura Berman - THE DR. LAURA BERMAN SHOW - at 10pm. After strong growth in June, HH and demos fell modestly compared to July 2010, and in the 20-30% range from June.

Tuesday's new  10pm News magazine, PRIMETIME ON OWN filled 8 of the 9 hours on the final three weeks of the survey, but was the #8-rated series for OWN in July, leading to demo losses in the 30-40% range from last year and last  month.

June's line-up remained intact for the first two weeks of the survey on Wednesday (a new season of MYSTERY DIAGNOSIS following DR. PHIL at 8pm, with new series HOPKINS 24/7 followed at 10pm,) before being replaced by a mixed bag of series episodes and specials. While HH were up slightly, the  decline in RW18-49 was indicative of the night's steep increase in Median Age - up 30% over July 2010, the greatest growth of any night in July.  Demo delivery was off 20% from June.

Thursday featured mostly movies and documentaries, with THE COLOR PURPLE, taking top honors among the former, and SERVING LIFE, the top OWN Documentary, leading the way to significant demo and HH growth over July 2010. Demos were down slightly from June.

Friday's only highlight was a repeat of  BORN SCHIZOPHRENIC: JANUARY, which was the top special this night. A block of  DR. PHIL episodes scored above average for HH Rtg but under-delivered for younger demos. The night as a whole was down in the 20%  range in demos from last month.

New series CARSON NATION continued its debut from the last week in June with back-to-back hours on Saturday at 9 and 10 pm. Hampered by a weak SEASON 25 OPRAH BTS lead-in, after two weeks the new series was replaced by specials, which more than doubled its performance, for the remainder of the survey. Still, CARSON NATION  managed to double its delivery of W18-49  in its last two weeks to equal the network average before being dropped.

Sunday's huge HH gains over last year in June evaporated as repeat episodes of 9pm FINDING SARAH and 10pm RYAN & TATUM: THE ONEALS  led the night to fall sharply from last year. Losses were even starker from the original's performance which ran last month, with SARAH down in the 33% range and THE ONEALS off by nearly 50% in HH and demos from June. The Median Age growth referenced above was second-most severe on Sunday - up 20% over Discovery Health in June 2010.


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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