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Patience will be key for Discovery and Oprah Winfrey's OWN


Given all the media attention around the Jan. 1 launch of OWN -- the cable network owned by daytime talk queen Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications -- there are probably over-the-top expectations that the channel will explode right out of the box.

Odds are that won't be the case. For starters, while OWN is launching in almost 80 million homes, it is taking a slot currently held by the little-watched Discovery Health channel and may be hard for some consumers to find on the channel guide. Secondly, this isn't a show being born, it's an entire channel. The promotional push, understandably, has been focused primarily on the OWN brand, which is uplifting and empowering programming rather than individual shows.

Winfrey's talk show has an average audience of about 7 million viewers this season, according to Nielsen. Her biggest following for the last six years has been women over the age of 55. Nothing wrong with that, but advertisers tend to favor younger viewers. OWN has long-term commitments from big advertisers such as Procter & Gamble and is seeking very high rates for its commercials, but if the channel’s core audience is over the age of 50, that could make getting premium prices difficult.

OWN will be competing not only against the cable networks whose mandate is to specifically target women – Lifetime, Oxygen and WE – but numerous other channels whose programming generally appeals more to the fairer sex including Home & Garden TV (HGTV), TLC, Bravo, Food Network and E! Entertainment Television.  Kids and teen channels Nickelodeon, Disney and ABC Family also have strong ratings with women as they pull in a big chunk of the mom audience.

The pie is sliced pretty thin among all these channels.  Through the first 11 months of 2010, Lifetime’s prime-time female audience was 883,000 people, according to Nielsen. HGTV had 878,000 while TLC had 768,000. The only cable networks to crack a million female viewers were broad-based entertainment channels including USA, Disney, Nickelodeon and TNT. USA was on top of that list with an average female audience of almost 1.75 million.

If OWN gets 5% to 10% of Winfrey's daytime audience to sample the channel, she'll be way ahead of the game. Odds are that the network will have small ratings to start and will endure lots of scheduling changes while it finds its groove. 

It will be easy to look at Winfrey's first month and decide the network's fate, but channels are not built overnight. She has too strong a track record to be taken lightly, no matter how competitive the marketplace or how big a head start her rivals have.

In other words, it'll take a few years, not a few months before the media pundits should decide if OWN is working.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Oprah Winfrey in Australia. Credit: Jeremy Piper/Associated Press.


Comments () | Archives (8)

Didn't OPRAH own Oxygen a few years ago? Why did that not work? Starting a cable network now is a little too late isn't it?

who cares

We'll see how it goes!

I like 'Discovery Health' health programming, although there are too many commercials for me, but that's my signature complaint about Cable, in general.

It was supposed to be 'commercial free' when 'Pay TV' began' in earnest
-back in the early 80's. That was the draw! People were willing to pay money NOT to have to see or hear commercials, right?

The obnoxiousness of Oprah's 'OWN' January 1 promo commercials, on steroids, ismore of the same!

Whew, if this is any preview, it's NOT 'gonna be good', ya'll!

I am already turned off and tuned out, as they say, as I don't even watch Oprah during the day. In fact, I don't watch 'Daytime TV' - period!

We want Discovery Health!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a longtime discovery health watcher, espciallly medical type shows. I am not an Oprah fan by any means and am very disappoionted about her shows taking over the network!

Discovery health may have not been watched by all but it was watched by some. What happens to those people who liked the programming on that channel? We are having an unwated channel forced down our throats, only beacuse Oprah has so much money. No Oprah is by far not my favorite by any means. She has denounced where she comes from. She helps people from other nations not the Mississippi Delta that she was raised in. Which is one of the poorest areas in our nation.

The programming on Discovery Health was educational. What has Oprah brougth us so far. We get to hear some "expert" tell us how we are suppose to act in the bedroom. Now can your children watch that! Oh and we have people telling us how to raise our children also. Raising children is trial and error not a text book of rules on how to do it.

As you can tell I am not happy about the new OWN network. I want my Discovery Health back beacuse the programming was intresting, educational and better to watch than a bunch of talk shows with experts that telling me how to live my life when GOD is the one that tells me how to live my life.


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