8 Big Companies That Will Disappear in 2012
The Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint creation of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, was launched into 85 million cable homes at the start of 2011. But while audiences wanted to see Oprah, that's exactly what OWN failed to deliver. Winfrey didn't even begin to appear on the channel until the beginning of this year. Most of its other programming has garnered little interest.
On the day of the network's launch, its audience was approximately 1 million, but it began losing audience share almost immediately. Within days, the figure dropped to just over 300,000. As one one television expert summed up: Its ranking had been 45th for the first quarter, so dropping to 73rd place for the second quarter shows that ratings are in a free fall. TV Week reports that OWN is in last place among all women-focused cable networks.
The poor performance of Rosie O'Donnell's new program on OWN illustrates just how important Oprah herself is to the network. O'Donnell, already a well-known star, had an audience of 497,000 when the first installment of her talk show aired. Two days later, that figure dropped to 254,000. In November, Winfrey's best friend Gayle King announced that she would be giving up her OWN show. At the time, AOL TV critic Maureen Ryan wrote that "I don't know that OWN is established outside of Oprah. That still has to happen."
When Oprah's own TV show finally launched on the network earlier this month, ratings were lukewarm. The two-hour premiere of Oprah Winfrey's new weekly prime time series Oprah's Next Chapter drew 1.1 million viewers among women ages 25-54. The show drew 1.6 million viewers during the second episode. But viewership remains modest, and Oprah will only appear a few times a week.
Discovery's investment in the channel has been substantial, but as a public company, it can't indefinitely support a venture that has little hope of becoming profitable. As The New York Post recently wrote: "Discovery needs OWN to be successful, as it has spent more than $200 million to fund the channel and has sold major marketers such as Procter & Gamble on multi-year ad deals. Some close OWN watchers warn that advertisers' support has just about reached its limit.