Network officials plan to reshuffle the current lineup in upcoming weeks and, in addition to the initial $10 million used to get the network started, will invest millions more in advertising to loop devoted viewers back in. OWN will move Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes—the only show the daytime talk show queen appears in regularly—to Sunday, the largest TV watching night of the week, in an effort to combat waning numbers.
So, how does a network that premiered with 1 million primetime viewers go from stellar figures to 315,000 the following Tuesday and 237,000 at the end of February? Not to mention, OWN’s target audience—women 25-54—are currently only 0.1% of the network’s viewers, a slip from 0.6% opening weekend.
Critics have attributed the fall to various factors, from the lack of racial diversity and appeal of programming to Oprah simply not appearing enough on her self-titled network outside of one show and occasional cameos.
Richard Dubin, a television studies expert and professor at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, says it’s unclear as to what OWN is offering its target audience, even citing its deviation from a 25-year-old brand, where Oprah is consistently the focal point.
“They really never extended the Oprah brand,” says Dubin. “I don’t know why, and frankly it’s a mystery to me as I look at this, they launched this network without her at the center of it. There’s no Oprah on [The] Oprah [Winfrey Network].”
A network spokesperson declined to comment on OWN’s ratings, but spoke to Blackenterprise.com on the diversity allegations, saying, “It’s important that OWN reflects the world we live in. We want the audience to see themselves in our programming regardless of their ethnicity, and we will continue creating original series and specials to achieve that goal.”
OWN is approaching its three month anniversary, and only time will tell if the network will be able to tread in the same waters as its competitors—Oxygen and WE tv. February ratings show Oxygen, a network in which Oprah invested in with a group of others in 1998, far outpaces OWN in viewership with 426,000 compared to 237,000 viewers, but only 0.1% higher when it comes to their target market.