In its first official day of operation, the new cable network devoted to all things Oprah put up some promising numbers, as the channel’s prime-time lineup averaged more than 1 million total viewers.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day estimates, OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network delivered 1.02 million viewers in Saturday prime (8 p.m.-11 p.m.), with the biggest draw coming courtesy of the 9 p.m. installment of the unscripted series Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes (1.2 million viewers).
Launched at noon on Jan. 1, the joint venture between Harpo Productions and Discovery Communications more than quadrupled the prime-time deliveries of antecedent channel Discovery Health. The now-defunct network averaged 252,000 viewers in 2010.
As expected, OWN in its first night attracted an older, female audience. Median age in prime on New Year’s Day was 53 years, or about five years older than Discovery Health’s typical draw. Women in the 25-54 target demo made up approximately 38 percent (391,000) of OWN’s first-night deliveries.
At 8 p.m. Saturday night, OWN beat all but two cable networks in its target demo, scaring up 468,000 women 25-54. Only ESPN and USA Network attracted more members of that particular subset of the viewing population.
Women in the 18-49 range were also well represented at launch, as OWN averaged 310,000 in prime. That accounted for nearly one-third (31 percent) of the night’s overall deliveries.
Buttressed by the Oprah stable of daytime talent (Drs. Phil & Oz, Gayle King) and upcoming premieres from the likes of Rosie O’Donnell and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, OWN will look to build its nightly audience as it waits for Winfrey to make the transition from her syndicated talk show. In the early going, the network did lose some ground; on Sunday night, OWN averaged 822,000 viewers, down 19 percent from its premiere night.