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Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Solidifies Profits with Higher Ratings and Ad Revenues

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) is in the black for the first time since its rocky start two-and-a-half years ago. More than 30 new advertisers are joining original heavyweight sponsors Procter & Gamble and General Electric, and are paying higher rates as the channel has found its programming and distribution footing.  Headlines about profitability and audience growth have replaced the drumbeat of speculation that her ambitious venture with Discovery Communications might end up a costly flop and an uncharacteristic failure for Winfrey.

Now, Winfrey says, “rewarding” is the word for her experience at OWN, both as the chairwoman and CEO shaping the channel and as a viewer lodestone who hosts several series including “Oprah’s Next Chapter” and “Oprah’s Lifeclass.”

“I no longer have such fear and anxiety about it. I really have more confidence in my decisions,” Winfrey said. “In the beginning, I was in a lot of meetings where people said, ‘You don’t understand cable.’ … I’d say, ‘But I do understand the audience. Aren’t people the same?’”

The answer is yes, says Winfrey, who’s enjoying a career renaissance with OWN’s turnaround and her return to big-screen acting in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” No. 1 at the box office for two weeks with more than $50 million in tickets sales.

Her confidence in OWN also is backed up by numbers.  For the year to date, viewership is up 22 percent among the target audience of adult women and 23 percent among all viewers compared to last year, according to Nielsen Co. In the third quarter, prime-time viewership among women 25 to 54 and total viewers each are up more than 60 percent compared to 2012.  For August, OWN drew a channel-high 536,000 prime-time viewers, a fraction of the millions that watched Winfrey’s talk show but respectable for a developing cable channel.

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