After a rocky start in 2011, OWN’s ratings have drastically turned around.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Oprah’s OWN network has grown approximately 30% over the past two years to 537,000, according to Nielsen, and it has become the most-watched network for African-American women.  These are very impressive numbers considering the fact that the network launched only five years ago.  This growth reflects the amazing transformation of OWN’s programming over the past few years.  Initially, the network was built around self-improvement talk shows, but has slowly moved towards scripted programming that caters to a predominately female African-American audience.

In late 2012, Tyler Perry partnered with OWN to provide it with scripted television programming.  This partnership resulted in a total of 90 episodes and filled the network’s programming schedule with original content.  The shows included, The Haves and the Have Nots, Love Thy Neighbor, in addition to the third season of Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse which initially aired on TBS.  The Haves and the Have Nots has consistently posted very successful ratings and has set a record on OWN, providing the network with its highest ratings to date.  Perry’s 4th show on the network, If Loving You Is Wrong, premiered on September 9, 2014.

“It’s the power of Oprah that’s saved the network.  It’s the business sense of Oprah as a CEO to say, come do this for my network. Oprah herself has set that network on the right path, and she is the wind that is pushing it in the right direction.” – Tyler Perry

Due to the success of Perry’s shows and the immense growth rate that OWN is experiencing, the network has had the opportunity to further increase it’s development slate by adding dramas such as the 13-part church drama series Greenleaf and Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar.

Oprah Winfrey will star in Greenleaf as a recurring role in the series.  This will be Winfrey’s first recurring scripted television role in two decades.  Winfrey will also star in a role on the drama series Queen Sugar.

In only five short years, OWN has gone from a new fledgling network to having it’s most watched year in history (2015), and firmly positioned itself as the #1 cable network in prime time among African-American women.  The way that this network has turned around is a true testament of the power of Oprah.




About The Author

The HBR Media Team is a collective group of black women filmmakers, writers, and studio/network executives who are passionate about bringing visibility to women of African descent working in film and television.

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