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.
“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.