Giving Oprah the benefit of the doubt

Rumor has it that Oprah Winfrey will soon take over the position of CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Of course, this wasn't the plan. Oprah and Discovery Communications--her partner in the network, have placed two other business executives at the helm of OWN, both with disappointing results.

But now, with her daytime talk show complete, and ratings sagging at OWN, the force-of-nature Ms. Winfrey is stepping in to make magic at the network.

OWN's promise of greatness has been talked-up from the start. But OWN has been doing poorly in prime time among key demographics, per Nielsen Media Research. And they've failed to have a real break-out hit in the line-up.

Advertising Age reports that the network's first-quarter performance ranked No. 45 among cable networks in prime time for total viewers and adults 18 to 49, with its second-quarter performance even worse, placing 63rd for total viewers and 73rd for adults 18 to 49.

Among women's cable networks, OWN comes in last, with Lifetime (No. 28 for total viewers), Oxygen (No. 35), We (No. 45) and even ABC's soon-to-be-canceled SoapNet (No. 58.)

But despite the poor ratings, the press, and advertising media buyers have given OWN, and Oprah, the benefit of the doubt.

Advertisers paid big bucks to be partners in the network's January launch. Kohl's, General Motors, Walmart and Kellogg paid $10 million to $20 million each to be a launch partner. Procter & Gamble committed $100 million across its brand portfolio to secure premium ad time on the network.

But even with lackluster ratings, advertisers are signing up, and renewing deals during this year's upfront negotiations for the fall.

The poor showing has miffed and disappointed many media buyers, particularly those such as

Ah, the power of the O.

Powerful leaders can be godsends to organizations. Steve Jobs' return to Apple after decades of bureaucratic rule by Mike Scott, John Sculley and Gil Amelio helped seal Apple's legend as a great company. And how could Starbucks have weathered the recession and plummeting sales and profits without the return of its founder--Howard Schultz?

With Oprah heading up OWN's future, only the best is yet to come.

Source: Advertising Age

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