After a Strong Start, Ratings Tumble for Oprah’s OWN Network

by | January 21, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Oprah Winfrey, TV News

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After a stratospheric launch on New Year’s Day, the ratings for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network have fallen back to earth. Viewership is down across the new network’s entire lineup, according to The New York Post.

More than one million viewers tuned in on January 1st – a Saturday – to sample new OWN shows such as “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” “Ask Oprah’s All-Stars,” “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” and others.

Winfrey’s OWN Network Posts Strong Ratings Debut

The Post reports that “Season 25” – which takes viewers backstage at Oprah’s daytime talk show now in its final season – is OWN’s most-watched show, with an average audience of 557,000 in its first two weeks at its regular time, Fridays at 8 p.m./7c.

In fact, the paper says the OWN shows with Oprah’s name in the title fare better than the shows that do not. One show not doing very well: “The Gayle King Show,” a simulcast of King’s satellite radio show weekdays at 10 a.m./9c. Viewership has declined steadily for “King” from 154,000 on the show’s first day to 86,000 on its fifth, the Post said.

Overall, the average prime-time audience for OWN is around 310,000. At least one non-Oprah show is scoring reasonably well, however: Reruns of “Dr. Phil,” which air twice daily at 8 a.m./7c and 7 p.m./6c, are averaging 250,000 viewers per show. The Post also pointed out that OWN is down nearly 20 percent in its target audience, women 25-54, since it launched.

Experts quoted in the Post story said the declines following OWN’s highly hyped launch were to be expected. The challenge for Oprah and OWN is to somehow find the right balance of shows to prevent further drop-offs in viewership. They might find that America’s appetite for “all self-help, all the time” may have its limits.

What do you think? Have you been watching OWN? What should they do to stem these ratings declines?