Oprah's rebounding OWN adds 2 hot soap operas

Winfrey's cable network is picking up the online reboots of 'One Life to Live' and 'All My Children' as things start turning around.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 27, 2013 12:15PM
Publicity photo released by The Online Network showing actors Corbin Bleu and Erika Slezak on the set of Two years ago, Oprah Winfrey laid off 30 workers at OWN, her cable channel, after comedian Rosie O'Donnell's show flopped and Winfrey was quoted as saying that starting a network was much harder than she expected. The Queen of Talk Shows now seems to be getting the hang of things.

OWN, which is partially held by Discovery Communications (DISCA), expects to be profitable this year as viewership continues to surge, thanks to its partnership with filmaker Tyler Perry. According to the Los Angeles Times, ratings are up 30% since 2011. The channel remains hugely popular among its core demographic of African-American women ages 25-54. Now, OWN is betting that adding two soap operas will help it add even more viewers.

OWN is picking up "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" (pictured), two soaps that were rebooted online after being canceled by Walt Disney's (DIS) ABC network. They'll get a 10-week run, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It's a smart move, given the genre's enduring popularity, especially among women. Both "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" get top rankings on Hulu and Apple's (AAPL) iTunes.  

Though OWN hasn't said whether it will add more episodes if the shows prove popular, odds are strong that would happen. The demise of soap operas, which many pundits predicted, hasn't happened. Instead, the soaps on broadcast networks all reported gains in total viewers from June 10 to June 14, according to Nielsen.

Among the genre's fans is Winfrey. She had Genie Francis and Anthony Geary, better known to fans of ABC's "General Hospital" as Luke and Laura, as guests on her old talk show. When the soaps were originally canceled, she rebuffed overtures from fans that she put them on her channel.

Of course, they're now grateful for Winfrey's change of heart.

OWN's future had seemed bleak. As Bloomberg Businessweek noted in 2012, the network may have lost as much as $330 million from its start in 2008 through the end of 2011.   

Shares of Discovery traded up Thursday morning, gaining 91 cents to $76.63 and have climbed more than 43% this year.

Jonathan Berr doesn't own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

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Jun 27, 2013 5:14PM
I always said she should have picked up the soap operas and put them on her network. I would be more than happy to turn on the tv that crank up the laptop to watch them. Thank you Oprah!
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