Oprah Winfrey feels your pain, media critics and fans who see the seven-month-old television channel bearing her name falling short. That’s why she starts this month as chief executive officer of OWN, plunging herself and her Harpo Studios crew into turning the fortunes of this channel around this fall and beyond.
She’s acknowledged a few times in public lately that the wrap of her syndicated talk show left little time to fine-tune OWN after its debut among 80 million digital cable and satellite homes this past January. Along the way, shows that probably were not right for the network made the schedule, driving initial ratings down. Now that she’s CEO and chief buck-stopper, that’s all in the past.
Now it’s time for those critics and fans inflicting pain on OWN’s run to this point to stop it. Time to realize that TV networks, like Rome, were not built in a day. Every network with ambitious nature goes through some level of struggle before finding its winning rhythm with audiences on a sustained basis. ESPN, CNN, USA Network, MTV and The Weather Channel didn’t hit the bullseye consistenly in their early years three decades ago–and still, that didn’t prevent them from hitting stride some of the time back then. Ultimately, they made it.
In OWN’s case, a big challenge from the go was encouraging viewers to check the network out way up on the digital tier, in place of Discovery Health, which was low-rated to begin with. Many of Winfrey’s fans had a tough time discovering where to find OWN 24/7. Better promotion by both OWN and its affiliates is eliminating that problem.
Also, many critics are sniping at OWN’s status as if a cardinal sin was heaped upon the American public. Step back and taste the green tea, people. On a recurring basis, OWN’s primetime rating exceeds Discovery Health. Our America With Lisa Ling is one of this season’s acclaimed documentary series, averaging 350,000-500,000 viewers an episode, and will return this fall. Special Becoming Chaz has a few Emmy nominations, extremely good for a channel only seven months old. ESPN, CNN, etc. waited years for its shows to receive Emmy consideration.
Winfrey and her production team promise to have content more in line with her “live your best life” vision reaching viewers this fall. The advertising community appears willing to give OWN room to flourish.
Round two of OWN’s existence begins this September. Let’s give Winfrey some slack to make it work. She’s not the only network programmer to suffer the slings of early miscues, and with the track record she has, it’s hard to see OWN not winning viewers over long-term.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!