OWN Moves Up Launch of New Shows

Updated: Jan. 31, 1:55 p.m. ET

A month after going on the air, Oprah Winfrey's OWN cable network is bolstering its lineup with four new primetime shows in February.

OWN CEO Christina Norman said that the OWN had originally planned to launch two new shows in February, but wanted to speed its growth with additional programming.

A joint venture between Winfrey's Harpo Productions and Discovery Communications, which has put up $189 million to get the network off the ground, OWN faces high expectations and has ambitious goals to meet.

In its first month on the air, OWN's ratings among women 25 to 54 years old were up 35% compared to Discovery Health, the channel it replaced, in primetime, and up 25% in total day. The network's goal is to double Discovery Health's by the end of the year. The network was ranked No. 33 in primetime among cable networks, up from No. 42. OWN's goal is to be ranked in the 20s.

"We launched in a way that we're proud of, but it's still month one of year one," Norman said. "The core audience showed up . . . They are voracious for original OWN programming. They have seen everything and now they want to see some more."

OWN's new shows are Searching For..., following investigative genealogist Pam Slaton; What Would You Do, acquired from ABC; Our America with Lisa Ling and Breaking Down the Bars, which follows eight inmates in a women's prison in Indiana. Searching For... premieres Monday, Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. while the other three series all premiere Tuesday, Feb. 15 starting at 8 p.m.

The shows join the seven originals on OWN's schedules at launch. All of them equaled or exceeded Discovery Health ratings, but some did better than others.

Ask Oprah's All-Stars is the network's top show with a 0.49 rating among women 18 to 49, followed by Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes.

Not doing so well is Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Show, with a 0.34 rating. "And it's been declining. So that's disappointing to us. We believe in that show we think it's fun and it was a great way for us to showcase the audience in a different way but maybe they don't want competition reality from us."

Also struggling is Winfrey's interview show Master Class. Norman said that show was facing a "competitive night."

OWN went through a lot of growing pains early on, with executives and shows coming and going as the network's launch was pushed back. Norman says things are still hectic now.

"It's great that you get to walk in every day and see your network on the air, but then you just keep this little punch list of miles to go, miles to go," she said.

Norman says that Winfrey is in touch regularly, just as she was before the launch. "It's her network and she's intimately involved in it so we talk a lot."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.