We need your help to reach our fiscal year-end goal tomorrow. Donate Now

Oprah Winfrey’s make or break moment

Jennifer Collins Oct 6, 2011

Oprah Winfrey’s make or break moment

Jennifer Collins Oct 6, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: The Oprah Winfrey Network was launched this past winter in what you can only call a frenzy of anticipation and — it must be said — Oprah adoration. Since then, though, the O-W-N — or OWN, as insiders call it — nothing. Programming problems, ratings problems, just problems. OWN begins its new season this coming Monday. Oprah herself will be on the air more. Rosie O’Donnell will have a show.

Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins has our story.

Jennifer Collins: When the Oprah Winfrey Network launched, Oprah’s fans tuned in… for about a month. Since then ratings are down 30 percent.

Elayne Rapping of SUNY Buffalo says it’s not tough to see why.

Elayne Rapping: Unless you really are interested in Oprah, you’re going to find the kind of things she does on many other cable networks of all kinds really.

Talk shows, documentaries, reality shows, and starting Monday, this TV veteran:

Rosie O’Donnell: It’s me, Rosie O’Donnell. Not Kathy Bates and not Rosanne Barr. People sometimes in the mall mistake me for them.

Rapping says prospects might be better with mistaken identity.

Rapping: Rosie O’Donnell is very old school and people, I think, have had enough of Rosie O’Donnell.

To promote Rosie and other shows, the network is doubling down. Spending big, reportedly $15 million to market the new shows. Media analyst Derek Baine of SNL Kagan says the big push is because right now OWN’s giving itself away for free. But it wants to start charging cable operators carriage fees roughly on par with a network like Bravo.

Derek Baine: They’re going to have to get the ratings up significantly in order to justify paying that high of a fee.

Which means, says UCLA media management professor Nelson Gayton, the network needs a lot, well, Oprah.

Nelson Gayton: She may have to have more of a presence in her own programming.

And now that she’s wrapped up her daytime talk show, fans may get a network that lives up to its name — all Oprah, all the time.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

The clock is ticking 

Our fiscal year ends tomorrow. Can you chip in $50, $25 or even $10 to help us reach our goal?