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OWN celebrates one-month birthday

Norman says evaluations can't made yet

As OWN hits its one-month birthday today, CEO Christina Norman would like to have some Oprah-like ratings to tout.

That wouldn’t be realistic, however, for a cabler that barely had a ratings pulse in 2010 when it was Discovery Health. Norman said the OWN troops are focused on the long haul.

“Our expectations are that we would grow the business over a year,” Norman told Variety. “This is going to be built over time. On January 1, we give birth to the baby with no complications. As for our expectations, talk to me at the end of the year.”

Not surprisingly, the top OWN show is the one where Oprah Winfrey has the biggest on-screen presence. “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,” which airs 8 p.m. Fridays, is averaging 528,000 total viewers. However, that’s a substantial drop from the 1.3 million who tuned in to the premiere episode.

Second best in prime is reality competition skein “Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” which is bringing in 420,000 viewers in its 9 p.m. Friday timeslot. Though that’s No. 2 on OWN’s lineup, Norman said there’s a slight uneasiness with those initial returns.

“It’s disappointing. We had big hopes for it,” she said. “Maybe we should’ve waited to launch that show.”

Overall, OWN is averaging 383,000 viewers in primetime and 179,000 in total-day ratings.

Cabler had the advantage of an aggressive marketing and publicity push for those first two days at the beginning of January, and the initial enthusiasm seems to have worn off.

Yet, a majority of its ratings are a decided improvement from Discovery Health, which was barely on auds’ radar.

Norman said it’s far too early to make decisions about which shows might have a shorter life than others, but she did reiterate that there are about 40 series in development.

The lineup will be tinkered with over the next few months and years, with the net trying to find shows with the greatest audience appeal and pare away the ones that don’t connect.

Winfrey might have more of an on-screen presence once she ends her daytime syndie yakker, but Norman said they’re well aware that the network has to succeed on its own merits, not just on Winfrey’s popularity.

“We have to continue to deliver on the potential on what OWN is,” Norman said. “We’re a network in year one and not year three. We’re training our audience for what we are.”

Net is set to launch four new shows this month, including “Searching For …,” which follows Pam Slaton, an investigative genealogist who searches for clients’ lost loved ones. Skein comes from Stuart Krasnow Prods.

“Breaking Down the Bars” follows the transformation of female inmates incarcerated in an Indiana prison. Series is produced by 44 Blue.

“What Would You Do: OWN Edition” uses hidden cameras and actors to see how people react when put in provocative situations. ABC News correspondent John Quinones hosts, and the series is exec produced by David Sloan.

The net also acquired Sundance pic “Crime After Crime” on Monday. Docu focuses on the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, a woman imprisoned for more than a quarter-century over her connection to the murder of the man who abused her.

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