Oprah Network Facing Obstacles

Oprah’s new network, OWN — a Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) company — is facing some hefty obstacles. In just one year, the network has endured executive turnover and increasing pressure to increase its carriage fees, all the while mounting a $254 million bill. Oprah is now scheduled to debut her own interview format show, similar to that of the previous Oprah Winfrey Show, on January 1, hoping to boost the network’s ratings.

OWN debuted with all original content, which is highly unusual for a new network. Most networks start by airing reruns of proven hit TV series to gain viewership and then slowly incorporate new series. The Hollywood Reported quoted a source, who said, “It’s hard to start without an existing library.  The idea that [OWN] had to create almost all original programming was kind of daunting.”

Other critics say that Oprah is trying to break into an area of TV that she knows nothing about. THR cited a source who said that early in development of the network, Oprah would become excited over ideas which she thought were original, but in actuality were old hat.  Another THR source said, “Oprah has a bubble she lives in.  She’s not a fan of a lot of TV.”

OWN’s ratings have disappointed Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) executives. The show averages 136,000 viewers, which is an 8% decrease from the network’s predecessor, Discovery Health. Discovery continues to support the network and says it is focusing on long term potential.  Spokesperson David Leavy said, “After 11 months, we’re very pleased with where we are. We remain extraordinarily enthusiastic about the venture and what the venture holds,” per THR.