Long-time friends (and the two richest African Americans in showbiz) Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are now forging a business partnership. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has inked an exclusive multi-year deal with Perry. Under the pact, he will executive produce, write and direct two new scripted series for a mid-2013 premiere on OWN, marking the network’s first foray into scripted programming. “I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come,” said Oprah Winfrey, OWN’s CEO. “We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series.”
Perry’s series debut was with the sitcom House Of Payne for TBS, which was followed by Meet The Browns and For Better Or Worse, also on TBS. The first two have also been sold into broadcast syndication, while the third has already amassed 34 episodes under the model of accelerated production developed by Perry and distributor Debmar-Mercury. Like his movies, Perry’s TV brand has been an urban sitcom with a predominantly black cast but in both areas he has been packing large audiences. Given OWN’s success with series like Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s, the network has been expanding on programming appealing to black viewers, now bringing in one of those viewers’ biggest draws in Perry. Perry’s existing series will continue to air on TBS, with all new projects headed to OWN. Winfrey and Perry previously collaborated on Lee Daniels’ movie Precious.
The deal with WME-repped Perry comes as OWN finished its third consecutive quarter of year-over-year, double-digit ratings gains across primetime and total day in the key women 25-54 demo (+63% and +70% respectively) and saw triple-digit ratings growth in September.