ANALYSIS: Oprah Turns To Black Viewers For OWN

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    oprah-own-300x210Sweetie Pie’s is saving Oprah Winfrey’s television network.

    Actually, a more strategic effort to offer exclusive black programming is significantly boosting ratings for OWN, Winfrey’s struggling two-year-old network that has caused major headaches for executives of Discovery Communications, the company that leveraged a reported $300 million to get OWN up and running.

    But today, OWN is undergoing a diverse television transformation and the numbers indicate that more black folks are watching OWN simply because Oprah has more black folks on the network to watch.

    This is no coincidence.

    As a result of programs like “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” (734,000 viewers) “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (742,000 viewers) and high-profile guests including Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina (3.5 million viewers), pop star Rihanna, (2.5 million) and Usher, (1.5 million)  OWN has benefited from the incorporation of more black shows and has attracted a much larger African American female audience.

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    OWN is now experiencing its third consecutive quarter of ratings growth for the recently ended third quarter as Winfrey is gradually turning the network around.

    And OWN is not the only network to benefit from the African American audience. MSNBC recently reported a huge increase in its overall ratings, a 20% increase, in 2012, and a staggering 60.5% increase specifically among black viewers during the past year. MSNBC leads CNN and Fox News with black viewership.

    Meanwhile at OWN, Winfrey announced an exclusive deal with Tyler Perry to produce scripted shows for OWN, that include the drama series “The Have and the Have Nots,” and the comedy “Love Thy Neighbor,” both of which are scheduled to premiere during late May.

    So why didn’t Oprah get with the black programming concept from the beginning?

    In hindsight, it’s perhaps the best decision she has made to salvage her network. And she’s combining old-school programming with a state-of-the-art network.

    “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” is OWN’s sleeper hit about a black family that owns one of most popular soul food restaurants in St. Louis.

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