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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