Oprah Winfrey Network has picked up its Flex & Shanice docu-pilot to series, ordering eight episodes for the fall. The weekly one-hour docu-series follows actor Flex Alexander his wife, ’90s pop singer Shanice, and their two children as they live in a rental home with their extended family – nine in all — to help cover the cost. The program will join OWN’s Saturday lineup; a May 31 preview ranked as the night’s No. 1 rated nonsports cable telecast among African-American women 25-54 and 18-49. “Saturday nights on OWN have become the place to be for viewers seeking great family entertainment,” OWN President Sheri Salata said in today’s announcement. “Flex, Shanice and their big, loud, loving brood are not unlike many families today who have combined resources in order to get through some tough times.”
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network said today it will simulcast Maya Angelou’s private memorial service at Wake Forest University in North Carolina tomorrow at 10 AM ET/7 AM PT. The service will also be available to view on Oprah.com at www.Oprah.com/MayaAngelou. The university in Winston-Salem, where Angelou began teaching in 1982, also will live-stream the service. Michelle Obama will speak Saturday morning at the university’s Wait Chapel. President Obama’s sister Maya was named after Angelou, and Obama awarded Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Angelou died at her Winston-Salem home last week; she had been “frail” and suffering from heart problems, according to her agent.
Related: R.I.P. Maya Angelou
EXCLUSIVE: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has assembled the principal cast of the latest Tyler Perry drama series, the upcoming If Loving You Is Wrong (formerly Single Mom’s Club). Premiering in September, the new series, created, written, directed and executive produced by Perry, follows the relationships of a group of husbands and wives that live and love on the same street. While the neighbors come from very different backgrounds, their lives are similar — raising children, dealing with exes, worrying about money and keeping romance in their relationships. But just below the surface — secrets, lies and deception threaten to destroy what they have built.
Two days after Oprah Winfrey’s OWN announced a docu-series about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, the network is putting the project on hold. “After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, The Untitled Michael Sam Project has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team,” the network said today. “We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams.” The decision comes after the announcement of Sam’s OWN series was met with mixed reaction, with some contending it could be a distraction, and the NFL denying it had any knowledge of it before the draft.
David Zaslav didn’t want to directly address reports that he’s considering a run at UK independent TV production power All3Media and weighed a bid for the country’s Channel 5, which Viacom just agreed to buy. But in an earnings call with analysts this morning the Discovery CEO left the door open for a deal, and protected his negotiating leverage by saying that he could easily walk away. “We look at everything but only want to buy assets that will help us strategically,” he says. “We’re in the 4th inning in terms of our growth strategy internationally.” While he says that Discovery can grow organically and doesn’t “need to buy anything,” it also wants to be “opportunistic.”
Execs were a little defensive after Discovery reported slightly disappointing results for Q1, which led the stock to open -3%. The company volunteered that Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network has grown so much over the last year that it was able to pay back $16M vs last year when Discovery had to funnel $14M to the channel. And while Discovery Channel was “hit hard by the Olympics,” Zaslav says, its ratings “did rally and we’re up 12% in prime [time] in April.”
OWN Renews ‘Raising Whitley’ For Second Season, Orders Additional Episodes Of ‘Deion’s Family Playbook’
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is re-upping Saturday night docu-series Raising Whitley for a second season and is ordering more episodes of Deion’s Family Playbook. Raising Whitley, from Pilgrim Studios, follows actress and comedienne Kym Whitley and her collective of friends – whom she calls “The Village” – as they attempt to do something none of them has ever done before – raise a child together. It hit a season high with its finale episode on March 8 with a .72 rating in the key demo of women 25-54 and 782,000 total viewers. Deion’s Family Playbook, which follows former pro athlete Deion Sanders, has averaged a .64 rating for women 25-54 and 716,000 total viewers. That makes it the highest-rated first season to date of a series among all docu-series in network history. Deion’s Family Playbook is produced by Edmonds Entertainment, Prime Time Media Ventures and Rogue Atlas Productions in association with Lionsgate Television.
OWN Orders ‘Belief’ Series That Explores Search For Meaning & First TV Film Starring Toni Braxton As Darlene Love, Picks Up More Tyler Perry, Sets Octavia Spencer Mini
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced today six-time Grammy-winning artist and actress Toni Braxton is set to star as Darlene Love in the network’s first scripted TV film My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story. In addition, superstar Justin Timberlake will kick off a star-studded new season of Oprah’s Master Class on May 11, and Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer will star in a two-night event mini-series Tulsa (working title) currently in development.
The network also announced today a groundbreaking seven-part television event Belief presented by Oprah Winfrey, which explores humankind’s search for meaning and connection. Also, Tyler Perry’s popular drama series The Haves And The Have Nots and previously announced new series Single Moms Club (working title) each have received 20-episode orders. Here’s a look at the shows:
OWN said today that the upcoming fifth season of documentary series Our America With Lisa Ling will be its last. The cancellation is a significant because of Our America‘s place in OWN’s history. Premiering in February 2011, Our America was part of the network’s inaugural slate of unscripted series aimed at empowering women and helping them better their lives. It was the only show of the bunch not hosted by Winfrey to draw a sizable audience while OWN was going through major growing pains and the only one to make it that far. During OWN’s dark early months of big ratings struggles, Our America carried the torch with solid ratings and critical response. OWN finally scored a second hit in late 2011 with Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s, which signaled a turn to entertainment fare, often targeting black audiences. That trend was cemented by the mega-deal with Tyler Perry, whose scripted series are now the backbone of OWN. Acknowledging Our America‘s contributions to OWN, both of the network’s presidents spoke of the series’ exit. “Over the past three years, Our America has cast a bright light into dark places, raised awareness of some of our country’s most controversial issues and provided a voice to those who are often not heard,” said OWN President Sheri Salata. Added OWN President Erik Logan, “Lisa Ling’s top-notch journalistic work is the best in the industry, and we can’t wait to see her soar in her next chapter.”
Lindsay is premiering this Sunday at 10 PM, and OWN has unveiled the 2-minute promo that TV critics attending Winter TV Press Tour 2014 got to see in January. Last July, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network scored a big one when it signed train-wreck Lindsay Lohan to an eight-episode docu-series following her as she tried to stay sober and re-launch her career after a court-ordered rehab stint; it was part of a deal that also included Lohan’s post-rehab interview special on Oprah’s Next Chapter. The docu-series, directed by filmmaker Amy Rice (By The People: The Election of Barack Obama ), taped in August.
“There’s nothing left in having a drink for me. There’s no party I haven’t gone to, nobody I haven’t hung out with, no situation I haven’t been exposed to,” 27-year-old Lohan tells the camera as she swans here and there.
OWN continues to expand it scripted slate, acquiring the rights to Darlene Love’s memoir My Name Is Love: The Darlene Love Story, to adapt into the network’s first original TV movie. Pic will be executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Oscar-nommed filmmaker Morgan Neville. Love also will exec produce.
Love was recently featured in the Oscar nominated docu film Twenty Feet From Stardom directed by Neville, which puts a spotlight on backup singers for some of music’s biggest acts. OWN also has licensed the first broadcast window to air Twenty Feet From Stardom beginning in 2015.
Once again, soap opera lawsuits are vexing ABC. Having been hit with a now $125 million breach of contract suit by Prospect Park over licensed soaps All My Children and One Life To Live, the network also faces a legal action from one of the soaps’ former writers. Requesting a trial and claiming he is owed more than $50,000 in royalties from OLTL being played on iTunes, Hulu and OWN, Allison “Sam” Hall this week slapped ABC with a complaint in New York Supreme Court (read it here). Hall served as co-lead writer on OLTL from November 1984 to mid-1985. Because he “created and developed the story line and numerous characters in the series,” Hall says his deal with the network ensured that he would be paid weekly royalties of $1,000 a week “as long as the ONE LIFE TO LIVE series is broadcast.”
OLTL ceased airing on ABC in early January 2012 but the network had licensed the show in late 2011 to Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park for new online episodes as well as a 10-week showing on OWN. Those 30-minutes episodes launched in April of last year. Though the new digital OLTL was suspended after 40 episodes and PP and ABC have been locked in a legal battle over alleged broken agreements and claims of sabotage since last spring.
TV critics attending Winter TV Press Tour 2014 got a sneak peek at Lindsay – OWN’s upcoming Lindsay Lohan docu-series set to premiere March 9. “There’s nothing left in having a drink for me. There’s no party I haven’t gone to, nobody I haven’t hung out with, no situation I haven’t been exposed to,” Lohan tells the camera as she swans here and there. “I don’t want them following me to an AA meeting,” she says of the paparazzi. Asked if she feels like a prisoner, she responds, “Yes – all the time.”
Cut to Mom and Dad Lohan showing up for their close-ups. Mom is thrilled to have a camera trained on her as she gushes how happy she is that Lindsay is back in New York. Dad is the catalyst for one of those classic Lindsay “thing in my head says, ‘Oh, it’s time to sabotage” moment.
OWN Orders Another Tyler Perry Scripted Series, Sets Lindsay Lohan Reality Series Premiere For March 9
On the heels of the record-breaking Season 2 premiere of Tyler Perry’s OWN drama series The Have And The Have Nots, Oprah Winfrey‘s network has picked up the fourth Tyler Perry series and second drama in its collaboration with the prolific writer-producer-director, announcing Single Moms Club based on his upcoming feature film will premiere in the fall. The one-hour drama, which centers on a group of single women from different walks of life who form a support group following an incident at their children’s school, is written, directed and produced by Perry as part of his producing deal with OWN. The first two series under the pact, drama The Have And Have Nots and comedy Love Thy Neighbor, have helped OWN’s ratings turnaround – most recently, the Season 2 debut of The Haves And The Have Nots smashed its own ratings and viewership records Tuesday with 2.8 million tuning in — making it the No. 1 season premiere in OWN’s 3-year-plus history and the third-most-watched program ever on the network. (OWN also picked up a third season of Perry’s comedy For Better Or Worse, which started on TBS.) Lionsgate releases the Single Moms Club feature on March 14 with Perry and Nia Long starring. (watch trailer below) OWN today also set a premiere date for Lindsay, the eight-part reality series starring Lindsay Lohan, who brokered the series along with a post-rehab interview special on Oprah’s Next Chapter back in July. Lindsay will follow the actress’ life after that rehab stint and premieres March 9 at 10 PM.
OWN also said today that Deion’s Family Playbook, which follows the family life of former NFL star Deion Sanders, will premiere March 1 at 10 PM, and Love In The City, about four friends living in New York, will debut April 12 at 10 PM. Here is the network’s descriptions of the new shows:
The Season 2 debut of Tyler Perry’s drama smashed its own ratings and viewership records last night with 2.8 million tuning in for The Haves And The Have Nots. That’s a 57% leap up from the 1.77 million who watched the Season 1 debut on May 28 and makes last night’s show the No. 1 season premiere in OWN’s 3-year-plus history. Tuesday’s Haves And Have Nots also saw a 59% rise among W25-54 over the Season 1 opener. With a 7% bop upward, last night’s premiere also beat the 2.6 million who tuned in for the Season 1 finale on September 3. Overall, the return of the Perry-produced series was the second-best telecast in OWN history among the W25-54 demo (2.49 rating, 1.1 million), behind the March 11, 2012, episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter with Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina. It is the third-most-watched broadcast ever on the network behind the Houston interview and the January 17, 2013, Oprah’s Next Chapter with Lance Armstrong.
OWN has licensed the first broadcast window, behind pay TV, starting in 2017. The movie, based on the 1995 book Long Walk To Freedom, and former South African President Nelson Mandela, chronicles Mandela’s early life, coming of age, education and 27 years spent in prison before becoming President, and rebuilding the country’s once segregated society. Idris Elba (Prometheus, Luther) stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris (Skyfall) stars as Winnie Mandela, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.
OWN, a joint venture between Winfrey’s Harpo company and Silver Spring, Md.-based Discovery Communications, also recently licensed the first broadcast window behind pay TV, also beginning in 2017, on The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which Oprah was among the cast – her first movie role in 15 years. OWN president Erik Logan, in the announcement, said Mandela “was Oprah’s hero” and the inspiration behind her school in South Africa.
British independent production company Nerd TV specializes in documentaries and non-scripted entertainment. Its LA-based operation will open this month following commissions from OWN, Discovery and A+E. The office will be managed by Nerd co-founder and creative director John Farrar and will focus on creating high-end non-scripted series for U.S. channels. Nerd is developing three pilots for three undisclosed networks, including its first factual entertainment series and a presenter-led documentary with former street boss for the New York mob, Lou Ferrante. That is a separate show to the five-part hourlong series Inside The Gangsters’ Code, which Ferrante fronted and which went out on the Discovery Channel in 217 countries this past February. Nerd is also producing 10-part series Dogfellas, which is set in a dog grooming parlor run by former notorious mobster James “Head” Giuliani. A+E also picked up Nerd’s 12 Year Old Lifer, a documentary that recently aired on UK broadcaster Channel 4, about one of America’s youngest convicted killers who is now serving a life term for murder. Nerd was founded by Jago Lee and Farrar in 2010. Last year, Red Arrow Entertainment Group took a majority stake in the shingle. Red Arrow International handles distribution rights for Nerd’s content.