Skip to main content

Oprah Winfrey Network Analysis - June 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


OWN launched by sprinkling Oprah-associated series on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and the schedule is evolving as new series roll out. By 2nd Quarter, original series episodes aired every night except Saturday, although the schedule continues to shift significantly from week to week.

Current series include medical mysteries, self-help, and celebrity-driven reality; Oprah has announced she will become a bigger on-air presence as production of her syndicated series has ceased. Specials and series from Discovery Health are also utilized.

The Prime scheduling strategy is set to shift in October, when the re-purposed "best-of-25-year-of-OPRAH" strip OWN YOUR LIFE  premieres weeknights at 8pm, following a 7pm strip of the new Rosie O'Donnell chat skein. This will leave only two hours per night for series, specials and movies, while providing Oprah's on-screen presence each night from 8-9pm to lead-in.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2011 vs. DSC Health June 2010  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

OWN launched 1/1/2011 to great media fanfare. For annual comparison purposes, we will look to the ratings of Discovery Health, which previously occupied OWN's channel position.

Following March and April's modest growth over the same month last year, OWN declined significantly in May. June saw a bit of return to form, as OWN grew in HH and/or key demos on four of seven nights during the survey. On six of seven nights, however, HH and older demos either  grew more, or declined less, than W18-49, and the network's Median Age went up 11% over last year's numbers for DSC Health. This is less of a jump, however, from May's Median Age increase of 18% over last year.

Seven new series premiered over five different nights of the week in June, with FINDING SARAH taking top honors among all OWN series for the month. As the Cable network that may be most dependent on migrating a Broadcast audience to the channel, OWN's strategy of launching immediately after the Broadcast season ends in May seemed to pay off: Demos grew over May by double-digit percentages each night of the week except Wednesday, and  were up in the 20% range overall from last month.

Every night of the week in June experienced wholesale schedule changes from May. In addition, where only Sundays at 8pm were scheduled consistently all five weeks of the May survey (SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS,) four slots featured the same series throughout June (see grid above.)

UNFAITHFUL: STORIES OF BETRAYAL premiered on Monday at 9pm, followed by the latest series from Dr. Laura Berman - THE DR. LAURA BERMAN SHOW - at 10pm. Younger women in particular responded, growing 63% over May, while growing more modestly from last year.

Tuesday's new  10pm News magazine, PRIMETIME ON OWN followed a variety of specials, series episodes and documentaries, none premieres.  HH and older demos were up sharply from last year and flat with last month.

Wednesday saw the premiere of a new season of MYSTERY DIAGNOSIS, following DR. PHIL at 8pm. Keeping the medical theme going, new series HOPKINS 24/7 followed at 10pm, generally holding or improving the MYSTERY DIAGNOSIS  lead-in. As with Tuesday, older women responded, adding 44% to Discovery Health's numbers with similar appeal fare last year, albeit mostly in re-runs as the network wound down in anticipation of its transition to OWN in 2011.  Delivery was essentially flat with May.

Thursday was a grab-bag of series and documentary repeats, with one notable exception. In a cleverly opportunistic scheduling move, an 8pm repeat of RYAN & TATUM: THE ONEALS led into the film LOVE STORY, which features Ryan Oneal's feature debut. The combination improved the month's Prime average HH rating by nearly 1/3. (Can a run of PAPER MOON be far behind?)

Friday's only highlight was a repeat of  THE TRUTH OF MY SEX, which was the top special this month. 8pm DR. PHIL, replacing  SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS, was flat with its May delivery, but the night as a whole was up by 20- 5% in demos from last month.

A block of new Real Estate series LOVE IT OR LIST IT on Saturday dropped 50%  in its second week, and was replaced by SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS from 8-10pm and the premiere episode of CARSON NATION the final week of the survey. W18-49 were up 25% from May.

Sunday's huge HH gains over last year, combined with an essentially flat performance for W18-49 and 25-54 suggest that 9pm FINDING SARAH and 10pm RYAN & TATUM: THE ONEALS are skewing heavily 55+. The Median Age growth referenced above was most severe on Sunday - up 21% over Discovery Health in June 2010. While FINDING SARAH was the top rated series on OWN in June, it dropped 37% in HH rating from Week 1 to Week 3; RW25-54 were down 14%. While THE ONEALS also lost 27% of its HH rating in its second Sunday episode, female demos were up slightly from week-to-week. HH and demos were up slightly over May for the night overall.


Although OWN is a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Oprah Winfrey's  Harpo Productions, the editorial direction comes strictly from Oprah herself. The network is keeping its development in the factual realm, with the twin themes of Self-Help and Self-Discovery as the filters through which new projects will be evaluated.

According to VP Programming and Development Danny Villa, shows need to have "intention and takeaway." OWN sees itself as the Network of Hope, as they seek to migrate the mass audience Oprah has built over 25 years to her new venture.

A quick yardstick for producers: If the subject works well on OPRAH!, it will likely find favor at OWN. They are currently looking for series that feature redemption stories, stories of women doing well in a man's world (and vice versa,) and those dealing with spirituality.

OWN is also in the market for formats and documentaries which connect with their core viewership.

OWN is staying away from elimination competition series, anything in the "wedding space," weight-loss, the paranormal, and almost anything dealing with kids, other than prodigies.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav recently announced an additional $50 million investment in programming for OWN, leading to a launch rate of 2 new shows per month for 2011. New series tend to be limited to six episodes or so, as the network tries as many different concepts and personalities as possible, in search of the building blocks for sustained growth.


E-mail CableU feedback on our observations at