Oprah Winfrey's OWN toasts strong ratings in New Year's launch
For its Saturday premiere, OWN was the No. 3 cable network among women age 25 to 54 during the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours, behind only ESPN and USA.
At 8 p.m., the first episode of "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes" -- featuring outtakes from Winfrey's swan song as a daytime syndicated TV host -- delivered 1.2 million total viewers, according to early figures from the Nielsen Co. Another episode at 9 p.m. also delivered 1.2 million viewers. That's an especially robust figure, given that Saturday viewing levels are seldom high and that it was New Year's Day.
However, the following night, OWN faced tougher sledding. The premiere of "Ask Oprah's All Stars" -- in which Winfrey favorites Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and Suze Orman answered viewer questions -- delivered 968,000 total viewers. "Master Class," a celebrity bio program at 10 p.m., premiered to even flatter numbers: 602,000 total.
At least one media analyst took a guarded view of the early ratings. "There was certainly a curiosity factor, 'buzz' and heavy promotions from Oprah herself to explain these strong numbers," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for Horizon Media in New York. "Conan [O'Brien] also had a strong number for his premiere in November [on TBS] and quickly dropped; I would suspect the same with OWN going forward."
But he added of the New Year's ratings: "They effectively counter-programmed college football for day 1."
OWN, which took over the channel position formerly occupied by Discovery Health, is currently available in 67% of U.S. homes.
-- Scott Collins
Twitter / @scottcollinsLAT
Photo: Oprah Winfrey. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press