Oprah’s Crumbling Media Empire

February 9, 2012

Less than a year ago, Oprah was untouchable. An endorsement by Oprah was marketing gold, and more than 17 million people tuned in for the last episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Since then, it’s been a slow, disappointing start as Oprah tries to build her own cable network.

The OWN network, which replaced the Discovery Health Channel, debuted on Jan. 1, 2011. There were high hopes for the network, which had a bevy of celebrity-hosted programming and, most importantly, Oprah’s name attached to it.

Even after a sluggish start that saw the CEO step down after only five months on-air, there was hope that Rosie O’Donnell’s daily talk show would be a saving grace. Unfortunately, despite a 6-year talk show history and popular stint on “The View,” “The Rosie Show“, which premiered less than four months ago, only averages about 200,000 viewers.

In fact, around the time that “The Rosie Show” premiered, the OWN network was in much worse shape than the channel it replaced! Total day viewers in the coveted 18-49 adult demographic were down 25 percent compared to the old Discovery Health Channel.

To answer OWN ratings troubles, they brought out the big gun in 2012 and put Oprah back on the air. Oprah’s Sunday evening program, “Oprah’s New Chapter,” debuted Jan. 1 with a two-hour interview with Steven Tyler. Ratings for the premiere were strong for the channel, but it was the second episode, a highly promoted interview with mega church pastor Joel Osteen, that finally brought the network some eyeballs.

To provide some context, while Oprah’s interview with Osteen set an OWN record with 1.6 million viewers, more than 3.3 million viewers tuned into “Kourtney and Kim Take NY” the same night. They say Sunday is a competitive time slot, but who would have thought that the Kardashians would kill Oprah in the ratings!

Despite the loss to the Kardashians, it seems executives were happy with the results, as they expanded “Oprah’s Next Chapter” to two nights a week through February.

But it’s not just TV ratings that are hurting. According to the latest figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, sales of O magazine were down 32 percent from the same period a year ago.

What do you think? Is OWN just a new network that needs time to grow, or has Oprah lost some of her allure?