For the first time in more than three years on the air, OWN is enjoying genuine ratings momentum. Winfrey pitched OWN’s programming profile as appealing to multiple generations.
“Our network is programming in a way that all American families can (relate to),” Winfrey said. “As you can see we are in the midst of writing the next chapter of our network. The OWN brand has grown. Thank you for your trust and support. Last year we said it – it was the turnaround. This year we are dreaming big.”
A big part of that turnaround has come from OWN’s programming pact with Tyler Perry, who became an equity partner in the cabler last year. His primetime soap “The Haves and the Have Nots” has become a cornerstone for OWN.
“Millions of devoted viewers are glued to their seats to see what crazy ass stuff Tyler Perry is going to think up next. I told myself that I was going to stop saying crazy-ass, but it is a crazy-ass show with CRAZY-ASS ratings.”
Cast members and Perry from the show were also on hand.
“I’ve got more twist and turns – they are going to be afraid,” Perry joked. Winfrey expressed her gratitude on stage: “Thank you for everything you have done for this network,” she told Perry.
Discovery Communications topper David Zaslav also expressed his appreciation to advertisers for hanging in with OWN as it found its footing.
“The advertisers saw (OWN’s) success first,” he said. “One of the things about Oprah we know is that she is a fighter — and not just a fighter but a fighter for what she believes in her heart.”
Winfrey had a surprise guest to open her portion of the Discovery Communications event: Toni Braxton. The singer has signed on to star in OWN’s first scripted telepic, the biopic “My Name is Darlene Love.” The ink on Braxton’s contract is barely dry, Winfrey told the crowd.
“Darlene Love is literally the beating heart of what it means to be an inspiration,” Winfrey said of the vocalist known for her indelible work on Phil Spector-produced hits for the Crystals and other pop and rock classics.
Love’s life story was told in the recent docu about backup musicians, “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” The helmer of that docu, Morgan Neville, is shepherding the Love biopic.
“I identified with Darlene when I saw ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom.’ I fell in love,” Braxton said. “I’m delighted and honored to play her. Her story is my story all over again.”