Oprah’s OWN bounces back with help from Tyler Perry

Kai Ryssdal Jul 31, 2013
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Oprah’s OWN bounces back with help from Tyler Perry

Kai Ryssdal Jul 31, 2013
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For months, we’ve been hearing about the disappointing impact of Oprah Winfrey‘s channel, OWN. It was expected to be a powerhouse in media, headed up by a woman seemingly made of gold. And then, well, it wasn’t.

Now, though, it seems as though many predicted the demise of the channel a bit too soon. The company turned a profit this quarter, a full six months ahead of schedule. The co-owner of the station, Discovery Communications, attributes the boom to the addition of two Tyler Perry shows as well as increases in subscriber fees.

But the comeback didn’t come as such a surprise to some. “I think her brand has taken a hit,” says Nancy Koehn of Harvard Business School. “But people that know her, historians like myself that look at the long-run, always thought that this woman is not only a brand steward of herself, but also, she is a really savvy business woman.”

She attributes the problems that Oprah had to a number of things: first, what Oprah has openly admitted herself, that they started before they were ready. In addition, Koehn thinks the shift from being able to run her own ship to having to answer to another company, Discovery Communications, came with some growing pains.

But does depending on popular shows from Tyler Perry — often panned by critics — take away from Oprah’s larger mission in exchange to boost the bottom line?

“Give people what they want… but she’s pretty serious when she says, ‘I wanna help people do better,'” says Koehn. “She’s always had a larger, deeper message. And I don’t think that’s any less true now, but she still has to sell that to people. And that means you might need Tyler Perry to open the door real wide if you’re going to bring people into the Oprah church.”

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