Oprah Winfrey may be one of the most famous, wealthy and powerful people in the world, but she still took a risk with her Oprah Winfrey Network cable TV channel. While Winfrey has earned her spot on the list of 10 TV legends, that's not made her immune to the struggles of building an audience for OWN.
For 25 years, the syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show was appointment television for millions of Americans. The question Winfrey faced in launching her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) cable TV channel in 2011 was whether viewers who'd give her one hour of their time on weekdays could be turned into loyal viewers for her 24-hour a day channel. Bigger questions were whether these people, who made Winfrey a billionaire, could find OWN on their cable TV system and if they'd be satisfied watching Winfrey's channel without seeing much of Winfrey herself on it.
11 media people to watch in 2011, but that didn't translate into automatic viewership for OWN. The biggest challenge during this time is that Winfrey was also still broadcasting The Oprah Winfrey Show, which didn't end its 25-year run until later in 2011. It was exceedingly difficult to wind down the TV show that made her famous while also trying to shift her attention and her audience toward OWN.
Social media trends made cable TV look like a dinosaur as younger audiences turned toward mobile devices to get information instead of plopping on a couch. It's just another sign that anyone working in the media industry needs a social media policy to avoid getting left behind.
Nielsen ratings among viewers in its target audience. All the news stories about the launch of OWN should have generated enough interest for viewers to at least sample the programming. One problem was that Winfrey wasn't making regular appearances on OWN shows. In naming herself CEO, she was putting herself at greater risk by spending her time behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera. To top it off, her magazine also reported a huge drop in advertising sales.
10 media people to watch in 2012, as fans, media critics and TV insiders all watch to see if she can solve OWN's problems.
prime time interview show that Winfrey hosts, achieved meaningful Nielsen ratings, as did an episode of Oprah's Master Class. Clearly, Winfrey's face is needed for OWN's programming to break through the clutter of cable TV. People in the target demographics are noticing OWN. The channel plans to debut three new shows during 2012 to try to build upon this momentary success.
Twitter to build her media brand. The issue is how she blatantly sought viewers being tracked by Nielsen to watch OWN. That's an obvious no-no to anyone who has ever worked in TV, and Nielsen noticed. Also, a new tracking report showed that newsstand sales for her magazine plunged 32%. Even someone with Winfrey's management and branding abilities would be stretched to the breaking point trying to fix issues with print and television properties.
DMA. The report says costs have now hit $300 million. While no one is saying publicly that they want to call it quits, the layoffs signal there are problems not just with ratings, but with maintaining viability as a business venture.