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?

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  • 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.

  • 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!