Anyone who’s ever done it before can tell you that it’s not easy or cheap to start a TV network (ask His Satanic Majesty Rupert Murdoch). It takes time, luck, money – lots and lots and lots of it – before you find shows that click with an audience; and that is if you’re very lucky.
In other words, Oprah Winfrey is finding out that having a hit show is one thing, but a hit network is something else completely different.
Yesterday Discovery Communications released its thrid quarter earnings report, and despite an overall increase in revenue, they made it clear that their Oprah Winfrey Network is a financial drag on the company.
So far OWN is in the red, to the tune of $55.6 million, and Discovery admitted that the network is still struggling to find viewers. So far, the new shows listed to the lineup – the Rosie O’Donnell talk show and Oprah’s Lifeclass – have had “sluggish starts” and haven’t been the audience pullers that they were hoped to be.
For 2011, Discovery reported operating expenses for OWN of nearly $160 million, compared to total revenue of $104 million. However Discovery CEO David Zaslav said that he’s sure “OWN’s fortunes will improve now that Winfrey is serving as full-time CEO.”
Well, that has yet to be proven.
Zaslav also added that: “We are working hard to develop content that will appeal to her audience. We are building some meaningful audience growth and flow. Viewership is up from previous levels (and) there’s some nice momentum going into 2012. … We are starting to swing in a positive direction in term of getting people to spend more time with us.“
Like I said, it’s tough to start a network.