Oprah Winfrey OWN

Since Oprah launched her cable network, OWN, back in 2011 many have wondered if the media mogul would be able to replicate the massive success of her powerhouse talk show.  But the transition from Queen of Daytime to Network Honcho was a bumpy one.

Despite her commitment to positive programming, viewers were unresponsive to the original line-up featuring Rosie O’Donnell, The Judds, and Oprah’s bestie Gayle King. Just as everyone was wondering if OWN would deal Oprah her largest failure to date, she was rethinking her strategy for success.

While OWN struggled to find its footing in the beginning, once Oprah began adding shows with a more diverse lineup, the network started to flourish.

Series like Welcome to Sweetie Pies, Iyanla Fix My Life, and Next Chapter helped Oprah turn her fleding network around, but the recent addition of reality shows based around black women have many wondering if Auntie O has finally tapped into the winning solution.

Allison Samuels of The Daily Beast explains:

“In an era when positive images of women of color still lag considerably behind women of other races, and when reality shows do little more than highlight decades-old stereotypes of African-American women, Winfrey’s revamped version of OWN is now a much needed leveling field in the land of television. It’s a one-stop shop for stories most mainstream networks, cable or otherwise, wouldn’t think about airing.”

While Oprah’s network is enjoying a bump in the ratings by catering to black women, I wonder how long the love affair will last.

Some, like Brittney Cooper of the Crunk Feminist Collective wonder if Oprah is merely copying the playbook of other networks who tapped into black audiences to get their footing, then ditched them all together once they were on solid ground (uh, hello Fox). But I’m hoping Auntie O has more sense than that.

If the success of shows like Scandal are any indication of what black women want, it’s clear we hope to see ourselves in complex, positive, provacative, and above all, well-written roles. If she can break the spell Tyler Perry seems to have over her, it might just happen.

What do you think? Is OWN’s programming appealing to you? What would you like to see on the network? 

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  • Mademoiselle

    “If she can break the spell Tyler Perry seems to have over her, it might just happen.” Tearing one another down while trying to uplift ourselves. SMH

    I don’t mind if she’s copying the playbook as far as drawing in black audiences with tried and true programming, but I will certainly mind if she doesn’t use this play to flip the script in a positive and meaningful way down the road. FOX used us and dropped us. I hope OWN does what I wish Shonda Rhimes and Bob Johnson did: be great at what you do, and use that greatness to impart some black privilege. Black people don’t need handouts, but when we do get to positions where we can be discriminatingly generous, I’d like to see more of us being undeservedly generous to one another just because we can — I don’t care how politically incorrect that is. I’m just tired of black people being the only ones singing Kumbaya and being the most “equality-minded” with their money and opportunities.

  • Hmm

    Ironically I’m just now catching up on “the haves and have nots”. (15 mins in and it’s ok).

    I DON’T think black women want complex portrayals at all.

    Black women have supported a string of reality shows over the years.. From Flavor of love to Love and Love and hip-hop, we also enjoy black family shows and hey if people are acting like stereotypes just make sure its funny or dramatic.

    I do not support all of Tyler Perry’s work… Madea sucks and unwatchable because of all “her” exposure, but I do and did enjoy “Why did I get married” and “The Family that Preys”.

    Now WHAT do BLACKS EXPECT FROM A SOAP? Soaps are dramatic, crazy, UNREALISTIC at times. Do you people really think you can draw in viewers, ahem, black viewers with a Happy, Happy World show? I think many would see that such a show is unrelatable or boring.

    I think the success of Scandal is because

    1. It’s been 85985 years since a female lead has been on network tv. This is what drew the black audience to support the show in the 1st place.

    2. Shondra is a great writer, she wrote for Grey’s. Of course this isn’t drew in the white audience, not blacks who don’t even care about that show or knew it existed.

    3. the story line between Olivia and Fitzz (lol), the white president.. well it’s scandalous. its another factor, as much as black women don’t like to admit, the fact that a white man wants this black women, something we rarely see on tv is why the black female audience is huge.

    NOW, I do not watch the show- there maybe other characters to the show but that’s not why people tuned in every week. It’s certainly not the focus of conversation on twitter

    And P.S. complex? Sure this isn’t the average way black women are portrayed but the “together work woman and a mess in real life/love life” is hardly new, amazing or complex.

    Oprah has made a damn good effort to showcase different things on her network and for that she deserves an applause. She truly could have gone “ratchet” a while ago…

    • thinkpink

      black twitter doesn’t speak for the entire black race. I know tons of African Americans who love greys and the dissection of scandal isn’t really as complicated as you made it. The show is just…GASP…good. The show features amazing actors, a good plot and great writing. It’s really that simple and while black twitter may be vocal about scandal I have to beg the white women in my office not to give away the plot at the water cooler on Friday morning. People tune into scandal because of every character on the show…just go to hulu and look at the comments. Not knocking your analysis but it misses the mark. It’s a difficult show to give an opinion on unless you’ve actually watched an episode or two.

    • Hmm

      Oh but that’s where you’re wrong. That fact that you know a several black people who loved Greys means NOTHING! As Gigi said on the next page it’s all about numbers. Blacks collectively weren’t here for Greys, they didn’t “notice” it because it’s good. You cannot write it off as just blacks liking something “GASP…good”. If that’s the case, how come we don’t come out in large numbers to watch breaking bad or the walking dead? Exactly. Lmao as if we all collectively somehow stumbled onto scandal. Girl please.

      And hulu??? We are talking about black people. Suggesting a black blog would make much more sense, don’t ya think? Oh right, we already know which two they are talking about :)

  • entro

    I don’t understand some black folks resentment of Oprah. She has been following business 101 market to those that want your product. White women mainly watched the Oprah show so her topics were for them, now mostky black women are pulling her network so she is marketing for that demographic. I’m just happy the sister is showing everyone that black people can be great business people
    I wonder if the Korean community constantly criticize those in their community that own beauty supply stores that mainly carry black hair products…probably not. Some of us need to look at the bigger picture

    • justanotheropinion

      Entro – I agree to some degree. O pandered to the white women market for many years. It got her where she is. But there were many black women watching & supporting her and even more that wanted something more. But she ignored them. Even after she became big, she couldn’t be bothered to cater to these same black women that had supported her all along. That’s fine if that’s the route you want to go. But don’t cry ‘foul’ later.

      Once she decided to concentrate on her ‘OWN’ network and encountered much difficulty, only THEN did she decide to seek out black women to gain their support and viewership? And with lackluster offerings to boot (my personal opinion). Makes her no different than the heads of the major networks.

      I’m all for Marketing 101. But I’m not one of those ppl you can throw a few bones to after years of neglect and expect me to now be in your corner and become a paying customer. I’ve watched her channel thanks to free previews by Dish, but she hasn’t shown me anything that would make me upgrade my package to watch/pay for OWN. Tons of reruns of shows I don’t wanna see and lackluster “new programming” won’t get my dollars. She’s accomplished much and she should be proud. I applaud her for that. But this is the real world: lack of attention for many years, subpar new products and a regurgitation of old products has me voting a solid No.

    • entro

      I don’t think oprah ignored black women, her topics were for women in general just not specifically targeted for black women. We share as women many of the same problems as women of other races but racism and all that it brings with it :poverty, lack of opportunity and dysfunctional etc give us a different experience than the so called majority or mainstream that her show was marketed for. So you cant say we were completely ignored because we as women can all relate to some things or struggles regardless of our race. Once again its business101.
      If Oprah as a black woman had taken all of her success and not contributed to her people and the struggle ( which noone can honestly say she hasn’t) then the criticisms would be valid but this woman has used her money to educate and empower thousands of our peoplenand I don’t just mean the morehouse men or the school in south Africa. There are too many to list here. Have we forgotten her endorsement of (whether we like his politics or not) Barrack Obama? Many agree that without her endorsement and campaigning for him he would have not gotten the exposure to become the first black president. Noone can please everybody all the time but give the woman credit for what she HAS done which for one person is truly amazing. Remember the legends ball? Where she honored black women in the entertainment, arts, civil rights fields that have never been given their due in a very lavish and unapologetic way at her home and aired it on national Tv. You know I hope that we don’t wait until she’s gone to finally give her the credit and respect she does deserve from us

    • Pepper

      entro: I think some of the resentment of Oprah is unfortunately wrapped in jealousy, and envy. In a lot of cases it seems as though (some) black people like to pull other people down rather than lift them up. The same applies to Tyler Perry, and Steve Harvey in that some people constantly criticize them. I’m not saying that everyone has to like all of Perry’s movies, or Steve’s books. But for goodness sakes can’t we at least see the SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS side of all (3), and applaud them for that. Bottom line is that most people don’t (really) understand the ins and outs of building a successful business

  • Gigi Young

    Well you know why so many shows on struggling networks are catered to black folks? Because black people watch the most television of all races! Nielsen did a study about this in 2011. And since TV is fueled by ratings (=advertisement), shows that succeed are shows that the target audience wants to watch. Yes, there are tons of black people who will watch Love & Hip Hop one night and Community on the next night, but in terms of TV demographics, Nielsen, networks, and advertisers will pick up on the fact that L&HH collected 80% of that night’s black viewership, whereas only, say, 2% of the black viewership n Thursday flicked their remote to watch Community.

  • The Other Jess

    “Dark Girls” is something i definitely DON’T want to see.