The Oprah Winfrey Network has reached a deal with Comcast Corp that will increase the number of Comcast homes where the struggling cable network will be available. The new number is up to about 17 million from the current 14 million, the Wall Street Journal reported. That will increase OWN’s availability to 83 million homes from the current 80 million. Comcast will also begin paying a fee to carry OWN beginning next year. The amount was not disclosed, but OWN currently averages about 2 cents per subscriber home per month, the Journal said. SNL Kagan estimated OWN’s average subscription fee will rise to 15 cents a subscriber per month or more than $153 million for next year, up from $29 million this year, the Journal said. OWN has struggled in ratings and recently fired about 30 employees and canceled Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show. Ratings also improved during the first quarter of 2012 as Winfrey put in more screen time on the network, a joint venture between Winfrey’s HARPO and Discovery Communications. Ratings were up 21% for the quarter, and Winfrey’s interview with Whitney Houston’s family attracted 3.5 million viewers, and her show with Lady Gaga was seen by more than 800,000. Those two shows boosted March viewership 35% over the same month in 2011 and elevated OWN to 29th place among 97 ad-supported cable networks for the month.
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