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Glenn Halbrooks

Oprah Winfrey Faces New Troubles, Both On-Air and in Print

By February 15, 2012

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Just weeks after the first bit of good news about the ratings-challenged Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Oprah Winfrey herself faces new troubles. Questions are being raised about both her on-air and print properties.

A photo of OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey faces new troubles, both with the Oprah Winfrey Network and with her magazine.
Photo © Getty Images

Winfrey has come under fire for using Twitter to try to drum up viewership for OWN, particularly among families whose viewing habits are being tracked by Nielsen. According to the Los Angeles Times, Winfrey tweeted, "Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if you have a Neilsen box." Not only was the name of the Nielsen ratings company misspelled, but Winfrey or someone tweeting on her behalf violated a clear rule in not blatantly seeking out Nielsen households.

Is this a sign of desperation? Possibly. But anyone with Winfrey's background both on camera and in the executive boardroom should know that Nielsen would respond to this attempt to skew the ratings. According to the Times, Nielsen says it may withhold the ratings or make a note of what happened when the numbers are published.

If that weren't enough, her magazine shows signs of struggling. Adweek reports that the Audit Bureau of Circulations says newsstand sales of O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine nosedived 32% in the last half of 2011.

Adweek says sales are up for the January issue, so maybe this was just a momentary downturn because of the economy or a series of issues that failed to grab eyeballs on the sales rack. But Winfrey likely doesn't have much time to manage her magazine when she's got a TV channel to rescue.

Already this year at OWN, Rosie O'Donnell's talk show has laid off 30 people. The show, which premiered last fall, is now dropping its studio audience and is changing its segments to try to find the right mix that will appeal to an audience.

Winfrey does have some opportunities to draw an audience to OWN - at least briefly. She plans to air a two-hour tribute to the life of Whitney Houston this week. Later this month, she is planning a TV special on the Oscars.

These specials are a great chance for Winfrey to get viewers to find OWN on their cable TV lineup. Winfrey would be wise to save some of the 30-second spots that would normally be sold to advertisers to promote the rest of OWN's lineup.

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