Oprah Winfrey Network Analysis - May 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.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2011 vs. DSC Health May 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. Friday and Sunday nights in particular experienced a sharp turnaround, but every night underwent double-digit demo losses.

With the steepest annual and monthly losses among W18-49, OWN's Median Age jumped 18% over last year and 4% over April. This might be especially troubling as it halts the momentum gained from April's growth for that demo.

Top offering in May was the OWN Documentary BECOMING CHAZ , which more than tripled the network's Prime average for RW25-54.

Every night of the week with the exception of Friday saw wholesale schedule changes from April. In addition, only Sundays at 8pm were scheduled consistently all five weeks of the survey (SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS.)

Female demos were down in the 10-20% range from last month.

Double-digit losses on Monday were due to the below Prime average performance of DR. PHIL and a weak debut for new series WHY NOT WITH SHANIA TWAIN. While THE JUDDS debuted in April as the #1 series of the month, SHANIA'S 14 airings finished 25% below OWN's average RW25-54 for the month, although equaling delivery for younger women. The scheduling pattern for SHANIA  on Monday might have harmed the series' performance: after its debut on 5/9, the series did not return to Monday until two weeks later, and then at half the HH and demo ratings from the premiere.

Tuesday's new April series ADDICTED TO FOOD only had three low-rated runs in May, before being replaced by specials at 9pm and 10pm. Top offerings for Tuesday were the documentary BECOMING CHAZ followed by a run of ROSIE'S DOCUMENTARY CLUB the same evening. HH and demos were down slightly from last year and month.

Wednesday was filled with Specials and various series episode blocks in May. While a 10pm episode of MASTER CLASS scored with viewers, the night as a whole lost nearly 1/3 of last year's demo delivery. Delivery was essentially flat with April.

Thursday was another night that transitioned from semi-regular series scheduling to a seemingly random mix of series episodes, changing from week to week.  Key demo losses steepened sharply from those experienced last month - down in the 50% range from Discovery Health's performance in May 2010, and down slightly from April.

Friday's only highlight was a repeat of BECOMING CHAZ, the OWN documentary mix. 8pm SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS was flat with its April delivery, but the night as a whole was down by 25% in demos from last month.

An 8-10pm block of off-TLC series SAY YES TO THE DRESS, followed by an episode of WHY NOT WITH SHANIA TWAIN earned the highest overall rating for Saturdays in May. Joining Thursday as the two nights with the sharpest year-to-year downturn for the month, Saturday also had similar week-to-week changes in lineup throughout the survey. Demos were down in the 25% range from April.

Sunday was the only night of the week to gain HH over last year, although older demos were down somewhat. This was also the most consistently scheduled night - 9-11pm THE JUDDS was replaced after Week 2 with three weeks of SHANIA episodes, all following  SEASON 25: OPRAH BTS at 8p for all five weeks. The latter series was the night's strongest offering. As with the Monday airings of SHANIA - initial interest was strong, but demo ratings for the 10pm premieres dropped in the 50-65% range by the third week. Month-to-month losses were in the 10-20% range.


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.


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