Oprah Winfrey Network Analysis



Now in its third year, the Oprah Winfrey Network continues to evolve with a mixture of original series, syndicated acquisitions, and plenty of programs starring the woman in charge. 2013 will also see the network’s first foray into the realm of scripted series.

The weeknight schedule is always subject to change, with some original series premieres (OUR AMERICA W/ LISA LING on Tuesdays; POLICE WOMEN on Fridays), but most nights showcase varied series repeats and specials. Acquisitions such as DATELINE and 48 HOURS: HARD EVIDENCE continue to round out the schedule. The familiarity of these programs is utilized in primetime blocks to boost mid-week ratings, along with being used as lead-ins to original series.

Saturday nights are dedicated to original reality series premieres. Shows such as IYANLA, FIX MY LIFE and WELCOME TO SWEETIE PIES have helped keep the network on a ratings upswing over the last year. Oprah night is Sunday, when she airs an assortment of programs starring herself, including OPRAH’S NEXT CHAPTER and OPRAH’S LIFECLASS.

Themes such as self-help, family, and inspiration can be found in Oprah’s original shows guaranteeing the viewer a positive and rewarding experience while watching OWN.

New shows in 2013 will include BLACKBOARD WARS, GOLDEN SISTERS, RAISING WHITLEY, and DOGFELLAS, along with the network's new venture into scripted programming. Tyler Perry will work with OWN as a writer for new scripted programs THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS and LOVE THY NEIGHBOR.  Also, Perry's sitcom FOR BETTER OR WORSE has been picked up as an acquisition for the new year.


Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2013 vs. March 2012  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




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Friday 8-11pm




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Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After thirteen months of consistent year-over-year growth, OWN had the unfortunate experience of losing to itself, big time. Every demo showed more than 20% loss from February 2012. Ratings at OWN still remain on the low side when compared to CableU’s other top 30 networks. But this network is in a transitory phase, and the next few months here could see some numbers changing. The network is still fairly young, just beginning it’s third year, so new ideas and changes may be helpful at this stage.

DATELINE ON OWN holds a strong residency on Monday nights, and this month it filled the primetime schedule completely. Last month, Monday nights benefited from a strongly rated premiere episode of OPRAH’S NEXT CHAPTER featuring an interview with Cissy Houston. Without that bump in March, this night showed a loss among both female age demos both monthly and annually.

Tuesdays in March continued with new episodes of OUR AMERICA W/ LISA LING, which ended its season mid-month. Its replacement, OPRAH: WHERE ARE THEY NOW, was not able to hold the same strong ratings that Lisa brings in. The night remained just about flat with last month in all demos, but fortunately still enjoyed some solid annual gains over a varied schedule in 2012.

Each Wednesday in March offered a primetime block of one of the following: UNDERCOVER BOSS, MASTER CLASS, or OPRAH: WHERE ARE THEY NOW. Blocks of encore episodes did not hold up compared to 2012’s schedule, but the night had a 33% gain among women 18-49 over last month’s blocks of 48 HOURS: HARD EVIDENCE. This acquisition is losing some traction and ratings its dropped from last month.

Thursdays made a difference this month, and blocks of the Discovery Fit & Health original show NY ER made this night gain viewers in a big way as compared to last month and last year. This reality show that follows Dr. Oz in some of America’s best hospitals, replaced last month’s blocks of DATELINE ON OWN, and the numbers proved that this was a smart move for the network.

POLICE WOMEN OF DALLAS marched steadily on this month. The Friday night blocks of this series showed strong annual gains over a similar schedule last year, but had monthly losses in the single digits.

Saturday nights were down across the board both monthly and annually. The usually high-rated night of original series premieres did not win in March. Premiere episodes of BLACKBOARD WARS and UNFAITHFUL: STORIES OF BETRAYAL continued to lose audiences from February, and did not hold up compared to last year’s schedule. This night will most likely bounce back in April with IYANLA: FIX MY LIFE returns for a second season.

The highest rated night at OWN continues to be Oprah-night Sundays, where original shows starring the woman in charge, remain the network’s most popular contribution. OPRAH’S NEXT CHAPTER and MASTER CLASS offered viewers interviews with popular celebrities such as Chelsea Handler, Alicia Keys, and the Wayans Family. These were among the top 5 individual telecasts for both female age demos, and helped keep Sunday nights on an upswing over February. Annual loss was significant, and both demos dropped by more than 60%.

In April, OWN has announced a new Saturday night lineup that includes the second season premiere of IYANLA, FIX MY LIFE, followed by new series LIFE WITH LA TOYA (which gets up close and personal with La Toya Jackson) and new comedy docu-series RAISING WHITLEY. OWN also recently acquired Tyler Perry’s popular sitcom FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, which will air in the Fall. This acquisition, along with two new Tyler Perry scripted series (set to air in May) will help move the OWN primetime schedule into scripted territory, following a growing trend among cable networks.