On Tuesday, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will mark one month on the air. The network, which on Jan.1 replaced Discovery Health amidst a wave of publicity, is still work in progress, OWN CEO Christina Norman admits, but says it is on track to achieve its first-year ratings goals. To help do that, OWN is doubling the number of new series offerings for February from the planned 2, Our America with Lisa Ling and What Would You Do, an acquisition from ABC News, to 4, including Searching For…, which stars investigative genealogist Pam Slaton and Breaking Down the Bars, which follows eight inmates in a women’s prison in Indiana.
At its launch, OWN introduced 7 new series. Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, which follows the final season of Winfrey’s syndicated show, has been the most successful one, more than tripling what Discovery Health used to average in the slot. But the other two shows carrying Winfrey’s name, the much-touted Oprah Presents Master Class and Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, have been disappointments, Norman admits. “Your OWN Show show hasn’t been able to capitalize on its (Oprah Behind the Scenes) lead-in,” Norman said. “There will be a winner who will get their own show, but it’s a drag if something didn’t work.” As for Master Class, which is barely pulling even with Discovery Health’s average, it “is trending in the right direction,” Norman said.
OWN launched on Jan. 1 with a lot of fanfare and solid opening weekend ratings: 1.1 viewers in primetime. The average dropped to 387,000 for the first full week and has steadily declined, most recently averaging 297,000 for the week of Jan. 17. OWN trails all of its female-oriented cable competition, including Lifetime (817,000), Oxygen (547,000) and WE (322,000).
The goal for OWN, whose price tag has been pegged at almost $200 million, is to move from the 40s in the cable network ratings to the 20s by the end of the first year. It has 11 more months to work on that as for the week of Jan. 17, OWN was No. 47 in primetime and No.56 in total day among total viewers (January-to-date OWN is No.33, up from Discovery Health’s No.42 ranking last January.) Also to-date, OWN runs 35% higher than Discovery Health, and the goal is for the new channel to double its predecessor’s ratings by the end of the year, Norman said.
She confirmed that the daily morning talk show it had in development with Mark Burnett, exec producer of Your OWN Show, is not going forward. As for speculation that OWN has pushed Sarah Ferguson’s reality series because it wasn’t happy with it, Norman said that the show never had an assigned premiere date and will premiere this year as planned.