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. Read More »
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.”
Related: OWN Sets Lindsay Lohan Reality Series Premiere For March 9
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. Read More »
Discovery CEO David Zaslav says that OWN beat his forecast that it would begin to generate cash in the second half of this year. He told analysts this morning, in his Q2 report, that Discovery’s joint venture with Oprah Winfrey is “now cash flow positive and starting to pay down the investment Discovery has made in the venture.” He attributed the acceleration to the higher fees that pay TV distributors are shelling out for OWN vs its predecessor, Discovery Health. In addition, the channel’s rising ratings are “translating into significant advertising growth including signing over 30 new clients during this upfront, and driving double digit scatter pricing.” He singled out Tyler Perry’s Have And Have Nots and Love Thy Neighbor as “bona fide hits” that contributed to 39% ratings growth among women 25-to-54 in Q2. That was “the highest growth of any cable network” in the quarter and made OWN a top 20 network for women in June — and made it a top-3 network for African American women over the last eight weeks. Zaslav says that OWN’s “positive cash flow generation should continue to increase” with new shows including Perry’s third series, For Better Or For Worse, which makes its debut this fall.
The Oprah Winfrey Network has shored up its calendar for Saturday night originals. It will air six new episodes of Iyanla: Fix My Life starting July 20 and also ordered 10 more episodes of Raising Whitley and 12 more of Life With La Toya. The new half-hours of those shows will begin in early 2014 at 9 and 9:30 PM, respectively. For the May sweep, the shows ranked as TV’s top three nonsports original series among African-American women. Iyanla is a self-help series fronted by Iyanla Vanzant, Whitley is a docuseries centered on actress-comic Kym Whitley, and La Toya follows the life of La Toya Jackson.
Discovery CFO Andy Warren says that the goal is for his company to spend less this year than it did in 2011 on the joint venture with Oprah Winfrey, and for the channel to become cash flow neutral in the second half of 2013. And with OWN’s solid recent ratings, that shouldn’t be a problem he told the Goldman Sachs Annual Communacopia Conference today. “The network is doing very well. We couldn’t be happier with it.” His characterization of the network as being “on or ahead of” its plan is more cautious than CEO David Zaslav was in July when he said that OWN is “significantly ahead of where we thought we would be.” The company said at the time that OWN “remains on track to reach profitability in the back half of next year.” Warren warned at the time that OWN’s losses could grow in Discovery’s Q3 earnings report due to plans to increase spending for programming and marketing. But Warren said today that he’s encouraged by ratings which are up 35% year to date, and up 75% so far in this quarter. In addition to the improvements from Oprah’s Next Chapter, he says that “now, more importantly, some of the new programming we have that doesn’t star Oprah but is Oprah-esque is now beginning to perform very well. And so it is clearly a top channel for African-American women….It is right on track with all the economics that we laid out … Read More »
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
OWN co-presidents Sheri Salata and Erik Logan continued to put a positive spin on the embattled network’s forecast, appearing this afternoon at TCA to echo comments a few days ago by Discovery Networks CEO David Zaslav. “Sheri and I are very encouraged by what’s happened and what we’ve established over the past year,” Logan said. “We’ve established ourselves with original programming on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.” He boasted that Oprah Winfrey Network has had three successive quarters of year-over-year growth, “and we’re up double digits in primetime and total day overt last year.” Logan further noted that OWN has experienced 28 consecutive weeks of ratings growth. Of course, the network’s numbers had been so skimpy they really had nowhere to go but up.
OWN Announces Fall Lineup, Adds New Series
OWN Should Be Profitable In Late 2013, Discovery Chief Says
The chief of the struggling cable network didn’t have much to say to advertisers gathered in New York to hear about the prospects for OWN — and other channels affiliated with Discovery Communications. “I’m having the climb of my life,” Winfrey said while thanking them for their support. She acknowledged that OWN is “nowhere near the summit” but added that ”at least I can see the summit.” Other execs described the channel’s programming plans, and progress in expanding its audience. Before her appearance, OWN showed the spoof from Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Oscars special, in which he pitches Winfrey series ideas, including Book Club Fight Club. (Winfrey slugged a club member who questioned whether she had really read To Kill A Mockingbird.) A video opening OWN’s presentation upfront said: ”This is a story about momentum. Emotion. OWN is on the move.”
The Oprah Winfrey Network has reached a deal with Comcast Corp that will increase the number of Comcast homes where the struggling cable network will be available. The new number is up to about 17 million from the current 14 million, the Wall Street Journal reported. That will increase OWN’s availability to 83 million homes from the current 80 million. Comcast will also begin paying a fee to carry OWN beginning next year. The amount was not disclosed, but OWN currently averages about 2 cents per subscriber home per month, the Journal said. SNL Kagan estimated OWN’s average subscription fee will rise to 15 cents a subscriber per month or more than $153 million for next year, up from $29 million this year, the Journal said. OWN has struggled in ratings and recently fired about 30 employees and canceled Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show. Ratings also improved during the first quarter of 2012 as Winfrey put in more screen time on the network, a joint venture between Winfrey’s HARPO and Discovery Communications. Ratings were up 21% for the quarter, and Winfrey’s interview with Whitney Houston’s family attracted 3.5 million viewers, and her show with Lady Gaga was seen by more than 800,000. Those two shows boosted March viewership 35% over the same month in 2011 and elevated OWN to 29th place among 97 ad-supported cable networks for the month.
Related: Discovery Write-Down Expected With OWN … Read More »
UPDATE, 5:05 PM: “The (SNL Kagan) report is riddled with inaccuracies and bad information. The venture is on more solid ground with more business momentum than ever before. Last Sunday, OWN was the number one cable network for women and people at 10pm. We remain confident in the future of OWN, and the long-term value we are building,” Discovery Communications spokesman David Leavy emailed to Deadline just now.
PREVIOUS, 3:16 PM: Research and investment firm SNL Kagan is the source authority for the kinds of financial information about cable channels that everyone wants to know, and that most companies don’t want to disclose. So it’s sure to attract a lot of attention with a report today from its respected long-time analyst Derek Baine who says that Discovery may need to take “a significant write-down” in Q1 for its investment in OWN to account for “programming costs for shows that are not working, as well as severance costs for those being laid off.” Last week the joint venture with Oprah Winfrey cancelled Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show and fired about 30 employees. Baine says he “would not be surprised to see Discovery ask Oprah Winfrey‘s Harpo Productions to finance some of the network’s losses going forward. Discovery has already funded well-beyond its $189 million commitment and they may want Harpo Productions to have more skin in the game.” Baine’s estimate of OWN’s $142.9M operating loss this year is up 33.6% from the $107M loss that SNL Kagan figured for OWN in 2011. Discovery reported a $35M loss for its equity investments last year, but that includes The Hub – which Kagan says probably broke even — as well as 3net and channels in Canada and Japan.
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OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network may be struggling in the ratings but Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav says he believes the channel just needs more time to connect with viewers. The success of Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s is one bright spot — the show has averaged 388,000 total viewers and a 0.38 rating among women aged 25-54 in its Saturday time slot, but Zaslav points out the rating rises to a 2 in the African-American community. He suggests that catering more to an African-American audience might give OWN a boost. “The African-American community is finding OWN a little bit faster than the rest of America,” Zaslav said. “We’re going to look at ways to nurture and grow that.”
Sweetie-Pie’s follows a St. Louis soul-food restaurant run by former Ike and Tina Turner backup singer Robbie Montgomery. Additional episodes have been ordered and begin production this month. Our America With Lisa Ling has also posted double-digit growth across key demos and has averaged 405,000 viewers in its timeslot according to OWN. A recent Our America about African-American men in prison also earned a drew a 2 rating in the African American community, Zaslav said. Zaslav also is looking forward to Winfrey’s new talker Oprah’s Next Chapter which debuts in January. OWN also has set previously unveiled new show Money Class With Suze Orman for a January launch. Even with the challenges OWN faces “advertisers have been … Read More »
Oprah Winfrey’s new primetime out-of-studio show Oprah’s Next Chapter will debut at 8 PM Sunday, January 1, 2012 with a two-hour segment featuring Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler from his home in New Hampshire. The OWN show will thereafter broadcast from 9 PM to 10 PM on Sundays beginning January 8. For the premiere, Winfrey met Tyler at the family home on Lake Sunapee. He talks to Winfrey about his years of battling drug addiction, his relationships with his wives and his new gig on American Idol. Future episodes will have Winfrey visiting a Hasidic Jewish family, fire-walking with high-energy motivator Tony Robbins and taking her first trip to India with Deepak Chopra.
UPDATE, 2:30 PM: Discovery says that OWN is draining cash — the company added $12M to its investment in the joint venture during 3Q. Still, CEO David Zaslav says he’s optimistic, although “this is going to take some time”: The challenge is “putting up really good content that drives the Oprah brand.” He’s gearing up for a series of negotiations with cable and satellite operators to score payments for the Discovery programming they want to run on their TV Everywhere digital services. Currently “no distributor has the right to take our channels on to TV Everywhere.” Some talks will take place soon even though Discovery’s carriage deals run to the end of 2012. “We’re very supportive” of TV Everywhere, Zaslav says. “We just need to find value.” One hurdle is to figure out digital ratings. “Today it’s measured on computers, but not on iPads.” He adds that Discovery’s deal with Netflix is “a big net positive for us” since it only involves the U.S., it’s not exclusive, and it involves shows that are at least 18 months old. But he says that “nobody knows” whether online viewing cuts into TV ratings. “We couldn’t find any discernible degradation,” he notes although “there isn’t enough data out there.” Discovery shares were up 1.7% in after hours trading.
PREVIOUS, 1:30 PM: Discovery says that it saw strong growth both in the U.S. and overseas. The company had net earnings from continuing operations of of $238M, up 45.1% vs last … Read More »
Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav have run out of excuses: With their unofficial relaunch today of OWN, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if their struggling joint venture fails to show a big improvement in the ratings following a dismal 3Q. In its targeted demo, women 25-54, OWN delivered a rating of .16 — down 16% vs. the same period last year when the channel was still Discovery Health. OWN may have set a deceptively low bar for itself; word is that it cut back on marketing in preparation for the relaunch. Still, the channel is betting everything on Oprah’s star power — and, to a lesser extent, Rosie O’Donnell’s — and that will be put to the test beginning today with the launch of The Rosie Show (7-8 PM) and Oprah’s Lifeclass (8-9 PM). Winfrey’s program, built on clips from her syndicated talk show, begins with one of her classics: for an episode about “ego,” she will include scenes from the show where she illustrated how much weight she lost from a liquid protein diet by wheeling in a wagon filled with 70 pounds of fat. Discovery will air both shows today on TLC, Investigation Discovery, Discovery Fit & Health and Planet Green as well as OWN. The joint venture also is spending more than $10M for marketing, not including free ad time on Discovery-owned networks. The cash is going for ads on hit shows such as The X Factor and Dancing With The Stars, as well as radio and billboards, and websites including Yahoo, Google, People.com, Technorati, and TVGuide.com. Read More »
Christina Norman, ousted as CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network in May, will become executive editor of HuffPost Black Voices, a new site that the AOL Huffington Post Media Group is expected to launch later this week. Norman plans to kick off her new job, first reported by paidContent, by telling the story of her departure from OWN in an essay. “It’s a great lesson for women, that when one door closes, another one opens,” said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group. “There is enormous pressure on high-profile women to succeed, to constantly prove themselves. I met Christina in Los Angeles when she was the head of OWN. After she left, I asked her if she wanted to do something completely different.” Norman was president of MTV prior to leading OWN. Mixed ratings momentum in its early going following its January launch led to her departure; after she left, Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori stepped in as interim CEO. Last month, it emerged that Oprah Winfrey herself will add the CEO and chief creative officer titles at OWN.