Oprah Winfrey is primarily known for two things: a touch of gold when it comes to all things lifestyle and media, and a brand that attracts a diverse and broad audience. So it’s been surprising that her network OWN, launched in January, has struggled to succeed, and perhaps more surprising that executives at the network have now decided to put more energy into attracting African-American viewers.

The programming own OWN has targeted Oprah’s usual base with shows from Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, and a home makeover here and there. All of the money that’s been poured into the channel has not kept ratings from being stale. Only “Welcome to Sweetie Pies,” a reality show about a black family running a soul food restaurant in St. Louis, has attracted a sizable audience since its premiere in October.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

OWN has an average prime-time viewership of around 216,000 people, but Sweetie Pies enjoys an average audience of around 418,000, making it the highest rated show on the network by far. According to [OWN President] Erik Logan, OWN executives will be taking the success of Sweetie Pies in that market into consideration when making future programming decisions, as well as trying to pitch OWN’s success with African Americans to new advertisers. 

It’s hard to tell whether “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” is a hit on it’s own merit or is doing well because it offers black viewers the rare to chance to see a multigenerational black family on television. I admit that I haven’t watched much OWN, but if the network is going to focus on black entertainment then I am sold. My wish list includes a black original scripted series, some syndicated throwback sitcoms, and a reality show about Oprah and Steadman! In lieu of that, though, I’ll just take OWN’s best effort at spicing up the television landscape and staying on the air.

Do you watch OWN? Will a focus on African-American offerings make you more likely to tune in?

  • jamesfrmphilly

    i am a black male. oprah has never done anything to attract me. in fact she has long appeared to put me and the brothers down. despite this i am not mad at her.
    if she ever gets any programming that is of interest to me i will watch.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    I will watch more of OWN once my cable provider makes it available in HD.

    I take exception to this article for two reasons:

    1) I am not sure why “you” keep insisting the shows already on OWN are not targeted to a black audience. Is is beyond the realm of reason that these shows can be targeted to a black audience, a white audience, and an Asian audience all at once. Black people are not aliens, my skin color does not prevent me from enjoying home makeover or inspirational shows.

    2) Why is a show about a black family only targeted to black audiences? Only black people can watch black people?

    I am officially exhausted. I need to take a break from all things “black”. It is so disappointing how some black people exert so much effort limiting themselves.

  • gradschool_life

    “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” is the ONLY show I watch on OWN. I DVR it every Saturday night because Miss Robbie is hilarious!!!

  • Yancy

    Some black men are such crybabies. When a woman is successful she’s implicitly putting you down. Shut the fuck up and get your weight up. Be accountable for your shortcomings and insecurities and stop blaming everyone else. Oprah is in a relationship with a secure black man and she’s not thinking about you enough to put your salty ass down. If not thinking about you is putting you down then so-damn-be-it.

  • pretty Cute

    I LOVE Sweetie Pie’s…haven’t missed an episode…love Miss Robbie and Lil Charles.
    But I also really like some of the other programming, such as Life Class and Super Soul Sunday. I like Our America with Lisa Ling, but I think that it needs to be longer for there to be any actual depth for the intense topics she covers. I’m looking forward to the growth of OWN and I can’t wait to see all of what they have in store in January..

  • Diem

    It would be great if she brought Lincoln Heights back.

  • http://yahoo Forever

    Its disgusting to hear that the OWN NETWORK IS NOW willing to pay attention to Black ppl just because of ratings. Whereas they didnt matter for the last 25yrs of the Oprah show;(….well I suppose, if Black ppl continously accepts the disrespect amongst many other slaps/spits done by television/film industry u will always be treated as non factor!…take action and dont support the network PERIOD!. In otherwards..dont complain!. That is all.

  • Joyful

    I’m in agreement with “prettyCute” &”TheBestAnonEver” above; Oprah has created a phenomenal, uplifting network of shows. While I have access to cable, I’ll continue to watch OWN, and support the hard work, love and insight she continues to pour into showing us, America and abroad, how Black women, how *Black people* in their power affect the world for the better. She’s also committed to building bridges, and destroying limiting stereotypes about what we as an entire society “can or cannot do” – Lisa Ling’s “Our America” and the upcoming “Rollin’ with Zach” show are 2 examples I’m thinking of.

    = She providing another option, let’s celebrate that.=
    (FYI: there’s always Centric and BET, as complimentary networks to watch).

  • Unnecessary apostrophes galore!

    Excuse me? She is FINALLY targeting a black audience?From my standpoint,Winfrey never catered to any species in particular.You just took me back when I was attending college and working in the United States.We had cable tv at one of my jobs,and I’d tune in to her show whenever possible,only to be met with redundant protests.Her show touched on a plethora of issues designed to uplift,honor,enlighten people,get them to read books again.I never understood why -for some-it boiled down to color.My stint as a youth mentor also revealed it was much more fulfilling for some to watch coonery on tv and stay within one’s comfort zone which promotes drugs,teen pregnancies,awful speech patterns,overall empathy.Mocking/resenting those trying to make it,and have ‘the system’ to blame for their own shortcomings.In case I’m not totally off-topic yet,I just want to advise the writer to work on their analysis/research skills.That show is not an ‘African American’ offering if I may.

  • MIss Dee

    really? seriusly? Black, white, purple…. She owns a netwrk that targets AMERICAN ppl. Skinny, fat, rich, poor. If people paid more attention to the MESSAGES on the shows and stopped making them about race we would live better in this world. Toure’s “Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness” is a great read for people who still think black ppl cant do what white people do. Go camping, open a bank account, diet, be spiritual. connect with SELF… then Maybe then Suzie Orman or anyone else on OWN will pertain to you and your lifestyle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shannon-Anne-Carter/197000431 Shannon Anne Carter

    I ADORE Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s!!!!!!!!!! Ms. Robbie is hilarious and she is QUITE the inspiration! I love seeing a realistic, yet positive portrayal of a Black family.

    I noticed Oprah is going hard for the Black shows and I ain’t mad at her. As long as she keeps them positive, I WILL watch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shannon-Anne-Carter/197000431 Shannon Anne Carter

    Oh, and ‘Our America’ with Lisa Ling is that business too! Excellent topics; great in-depth coverage (as in-depth as you can be in 1 hour).

  • pink

    OK James….please explain EXACTLY how Oprah has put you and the other brothas down?!?

  • pink

    I don’t know why people are trippin’ on Oprah’s Network. I wish her well……but sometimes the tides turn. She had a great run for 25 years.

  • pink

    I don’t know but maybe Oprah has lost her midas touch. I hope not …but lots of businesses including airlines, banks, movie studios, department stores, etc. have lost their luster in the last year or so. My point is few things stay on top these days

  • iolastar

    I’m glad OWN is targeting or making the attempt to attract more black viewers. Many of the shows on OWN are great and the messages are universal, but it wouldn’t hurt to visually see more people of color. It’s bad enough people of color aren’t represented on other networks, but OWN???? I also think that OWN should have some shows for younger people as well because goodness knows this new generation could use the guidance.

  • Alexandra

    TvOne already did. They air it early mornings, depending on your time zone.

  • HuesofHoney

    @Ms. Dee I think you are missing the point. I challenge people to change the word “black” to white. Do you think a large amount of white people tune into BET or TVONE? why not? exactly. Same point…sweetie. You people always try to make being and supporting black a problem. Toure *crickets* lol…you can enjoy that one, momma…I’ll pass…lol

    Let’s take it off race. A one hour show focused on empowering and informing…is one thing. A 24 hour, 365 days a year cable channel…is a different beast.
    You need to pull in people from every angle. I enjoy being informed…But, no… I’m not watching all that 24 hours..sorry. Not to mention Dr Phil and Suzi Orman are on other channels. By the way.. Oprah is black…and there should never be anything wrong with her acknowledging that..just like she’s a woman and American….remember.

  • Trav

    Oprah’s show has proven to have little social significance for me. Not sure why it should be of interest after 20 plus years of topics that seem to resonate with more with women, specifically white females. She’s found her audience and I think she should continue with what works best for her.

  • CAZ

    I’m always so in the fence when it comes to Oprah. Since she’s been a media mogul, seems like anyone she gives a platform to (except Iyanla Vanzandt) is white. From Dr. Phil(who isn’t a doctor), to doctor Oz, Suze Orman, and Nate Burkus, seems like she’s only interested in helping white folks reach media success. They got the Oprah stamp of approval and went on to have their own shows. I applaud Oprah for all the good things she does but her motives puzzle me. She went to the other side of the world to start a girls school in Africa, yet Chicago (where she made her billions), has sub-par schools and a crumbling educational system. We all know Oprah loves her some white folks whether we admit it or not. Any special or concert she’s ever had, she always flanked by her favorite whites, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. When she started OWN network, I was so hoping that she would give platform to talent Africans in the media or at least something geared toward African American women. That unfortunatly wasnt the case. Sad to know that the only interest her network has in appealing to black is when it comes to the bottom line.

  • Reki

    It feels as though I’m losing a few brain cells reading the comments,but most of all… Who wrote this shit?
    Many of you commenters missed the point.What exactly is ”appealing to African American women.”?If the positive messages she’s explored over the years and now on OWN does not do that,well ask yourselves why….Funny,I never hear that about the networks that exploit you!Should I assume that coonery appeals to you women?

  • whilome

    Purty much what you said.

    But, we all have to have an angle, I guess.

    All Blogs Go to Heaven.

  • Isis

    Lmaoo I’m on the fence too. I dont need to see black people to speak about something for me to get the message. But, I believe it does wonders for black kids self esteem to see ppl who look like them delivering positive msgs on tv.

  • pink

    Caz: Did you see The Legends Ball and Weekend that Oprah did for 25 African American Women in I believe 2005? That special was amazing….and in my opinion the best thing she’s ever done on TV. If you get a chance google it.

  • http://@clnmike Clnmike

    This is an old trick by networks, target black viewers when your starting out to make some money than dump them when you get established. Remember CW, WB, and the black exploitation era?

  • gmarie

    I’ve never known oprah to be anti-male of any race. She is just pro-woman, and her life’s work seems to have been dedicated to targeting and uplifting women. Exclusion does not automatically equal dismissal jeez..

  • nextel

    THIS IS DAM SHAME, IT’S TIME TO TARGET THE BLACKS . WHEN ARE GOING TO WAKE UP. MAMMY IS A SELLOUT

  • pink

    nextel: Who ru referring to as a sell out…..Oprah? If so she’s a sell out all the way to the bank to the tune of a billionaire….and I for one ain’t mad at her. Go Oprah!

  • yvette ware

    iiiiii

  • yvette ware

    It is too late to bring the African Americans to her website. Black people don’t care for Oprah because they realize she is a white womans nigger. Oprah should be ashamed of herself for treating the blacks the way she had. It’s sad that a white man has to tell Oprah do’s and don’t’s.

  • yvette ware

    This the reason why Oprah’s ratings is going to hell. Oprah and her staff “white staff””” filtered all the black stories for the Dr. Phil show over the 25 years she was on air. Now this is what you call disrespectful to the black coulture. There is no excuse for this. If you need proof, check out the Dr. Phil Shows. The black shows was too black for Oprah so she had her staff store them in a file for Dr. Phil. Oprah screwed herself that’s why her ratings will never boost again. She really screwed herself when she didn’t actknowledge Michael Jackson’s death in a timely manner like the rest of the people in the media, but had the nerve to enterview his mother after his death. If you people think Oprah is a sweetie pie, than you got problems yourself! I believe in people of every culture and all race and that what Ms. Opie not excepting, and that’s why she is losing. I new her time was coming, it was just a matter of time and now she’s feeling it. You can’t keep doing people wrong just becasue you got money, you gave a white woman a car, home, or sent a white girl to college, your day will come. If I was contact by the OWN Network to be enterview by Oprah, I would hang up the phone or probably tell the producers to kiss where the sun don’t shine! Now Opie is calling for the African Americans to help increase her ratings. You low down helfer!

  • yvette ware

    Opie, you threw your African American people under the bus for 25 years, and now you’ve been given the okay by the white man to bring them from beneath the bus to your new network. THEY ARE THREW WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Go find drunk Wellie Nelson, the one you invited to the show several times in the past.

  • orchard72361

    If opie thinks since her rating is falling she can grab the bpl under bus where she left them 25 years ago, she is a fool.

  • orchard72361

    The woman is low down as hell! Black people should ignore her invite because Oprah really is an embarrassment to the African American Culture! She turned down all the black stories for her “beloved” white people and now these same white people can’t stand her just because she sipported President Obama. All the black stories she turned down, she had her staff save them for the Dr. Phil Show. Check out his shows?Opie, you are getting what you put out and we don’t care just because you got money.

  • pink

    Yvette: Speak for yourself because not all black people hate Oprah. Whether you like her or not she still has her millions, and is a successful woman

  • pink

    Orchard: Are these white people that you say no longer like Oprah because she supported President Obama,,,,the same ones that voted for him? Your comments make absolutely no sense. If white people hadn’t voted for Obama in huge numbers…..he wouldn’t be in office today. Black people only make up about 13% of the population; so Obama never would have been elected if only black people voted for him. Get a grip!!

  • pink

    Black people probably don’t want to hear this….but the truth of the matter is if Oprah had depended solely on black people her show probably never would have reached the heights it did because lots of times black people don’t support other black people’s endeavors.. Oprah was smart enough to cater to the masses, And whatever people think about her now…..we can’t take her 25 years of success away from her. People need to stop hatin’ and get a life!!

  • pink

    Yvette: Hate and jealousy will get you no where. If you had Oprah’s millions and 25 years of success…I wonder if you would be saying the same thing. Besides… things change. A lot of things that were successful and worked 5 or 10 years ago no longer work today….and intelligent people know that. Whether we agree with Oprah’s tactics or not….. her success in years past will always be the cornerstone

  • grace

    Oprah (and other networks, for that matter) need to put less reality TV shows on and more sitcoms. I know reality TV is cheap, but C’mon. We need a new Girlfriends type of show.

  • orchard72361

    Being a white woman, if it wasn’t for the blacks, we as white people wouldn’t be where we are today. We stole from them from the beginning and continuing it today, so you need to shut the hell up and go read the history books your white ancesters hid from you. You know the truth, but you fell to except it. It’s Christmas Day, go ask your grandfather, a previous slave owner how many slave did he hang, raped, and stole money and ideas from?

    If you think the majority of white people help put President Obama in office, than you are a slaves owner child!
    You are one super white fool!

  • orchard72361

    Pink, go to the nearest doctor you can find and ask them to test you for bipolar. I am a Phycologist and by reading your comments, you give off signs of a person with tons of personalities.

  • orchard72361

    When you find that doctor, take Opie with you. I’m sure you have her home phone number and if you don’t, call Gail King and be prepared fo fight!

  • Dave92440

    I have been slow to appreciate and understand Oprah. I believe that she has been able to empower women of all races, nationalities and ages. She has brought daylight into many lives and successfully opened up valuable dialogue between the sexes, races, and religious points of view. I do think that her “freebies” and giveaways were/are counterproductive in that they tend to distract her base from the valuable gifts that she really has to offer; herself, her ideas, and her generous infusion of self-worth to her viewers. Her gifts of automobiles and other goodies are just fluff, and carry the wrong message with them. I am a 70 year old white guy, and I am extremely grateful to have women like Oprah in my world. We, as a country, seem most willing to tear down our heroes. Oprah is one of mine!

  • pink

    I hear yeah Dave. Oprah has brought about great conversations. As for the freebies…..I don’t see anything wrong with giving. For the record I assume you know the gifts are donated by the companies,e.g., Ford, GE, etc. One year the audience was full of teachers……and they were well deserving of the gifts. We don’t always give props to teachers.

  • Dave92440

    My point was that Oprah was already giving; and, although the addition of material gifts helped for awhile, her real gift was empowerment, confidence, and a feeling of increased self worth. The biggest gift (real gift) of all was standing there on the stage. I can easily blow off the publicity bling from the sponsors; that won’t be remembered 25 years from now. I think Oprah found out what’s inside of people and attempted to nurture it. She found her voice and made good use of it.

    I agree on the teachers. We will pay major $$$ per hour for folks to build our cars and TV’s, but we are stingy with those who will ultimately mold the minds and character of our children. Go figure!

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