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A Look At The Tyler Perry/Oprah Winfrey Partnership A Year After It Was Announced...

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act February 6, 2014 at 10:52AM

A Peek At The Tyler Perry/Oprah Winfrey Partnership A Year After It Was Announced...
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Oprah\Tyler Perry

Whenever we discuss Tyler Perry's new series on the OWN network on this site (as well as on our various social media pages), the vast majority of you claim to be non-viewers of the shows; yet they continue to book record ratings, week-to-week, clearly attracting new viewers on an ongoing basis.

So if no one is watching, and given that our readership I'd say is quite diverse in terms of content tastes (although I'm also aware that S&A's readership isn't fully representative of all of black America), how do you account for the increasing millions of people who make up the audiences that watch and apparently love these TV shows?

Clearly, somebody's watching, especially given today's news that Tuesday night's (February 4) episode of OWN's hit Tyler Perry drama The Haves and the Have Nots delivered a record-breaking 3.4 million viewers, its most-watched telecast in series history. 

In addition, the episode ranked as the #1 cable telecast of the night and #2 in all of television among W25-54 (women ages 25-54), second only to The Biggest Loser season finale.

Still more... OWN was Tuesday night's #1 cable network for W25-54, and the episode was the second highest telecast in OWN history (W25-54 and total viewers), and the show marked its third consecutive week of growth in W25-54 (up +16% vs. last week). The season two average is up double digits (+44%) vs. season one (Source: The Nielsen Company).

With figures like that, especially the jumps in weekly and seasonal viewership (+16%, and a whopping +44%, respectively), the series is obviously growing immensely in popularity. Yet, no one wants to claim that they watch it (or any of Tyler Perry's other series), and, the mainstream media isn't really emphasizing the significance of any of this, as I think they would otherwise.

This boost in ratings comes on the heels of news that OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network closed out 2013 on top, achieving its second consecutive year of double digit growth across key demos. 

Since that report at the start of the new year, The Haves and the Have Nots has gone from being Tuesday night's #4 original cable series for W25-54, to the #1 cable telecast in that same group. 

And note that this is for all women 25-54, not just African American women, which means that the series is enjoying some *cross over* success.

Tyler Perry's other 2 series on the OWN network (Love Thy Neighbor, and For Better or Worse) aren't doing to shabbily either. And there's a 4th Tyler Perry series on the way. A month ago, OWN ordered the network's 4th weekly scripted series from Perry, Single Moms Club, which will be based on the forthcoming feature film of the same name, which Lionsgate is releasing on March 142014, with Nia LongWendi McLendon-Covey, and Zulay Henao starring, and William LevyTerry Crews, Eddie Cibrian, Amy SmartCocoa BrownRyan Eggold and Tyler Perry himself, rounding out the cast.

It was less than 2 years ago, in October 2012, when Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network entered into a partnership with Tyler Perry to bring scripted series to the network, which was met with a lot of disconcerted voices around the web. To be sure, there was some support. But it seemed the loudest voices were the dissenters.

The main question was what this would mean for a then struggling OWN network. A year and a few months later, we have at least one answer to that question: double-digit ratings growth!

The first question I had when I read the news was, what this all meant for Tyler Perry's plans to launch his own cable TV network (which is all-but-forgotten now); Specifically, the plan (which involved Lionsgate and One Equity Partners, co-owners of the TV Guide Channel) was to overhaul the TV Guide Channel, and turn it into Tyler TV (yes, that was a name that was being considered for the new network).

What exactly the revamping plans entailed was never made public; but, what we've since come to know with some certainty is that, Tyler TV is dead, thanks to his exclusive partnership with OWN.

As Oprah has experienced over the years, launching a new network is no small, simple feat. And given her close friendship with Tyler Perry, it wouldn't surprise me if conversations were had between the two about Oprah's well-publicized early struggles in running her new cable TV venture, that eventually discouraged Perry from pursuing his; conversations that may have also included chatter about a potential partnership instead - one that was eventually announced, and that both are likely high-fiving each other over how successful it's become.

And in exchange, for his part, Perry gets a small equity stake in OWN, in addition to a guaranteed future home for all his new TV projects (as we've come to see); a move that he likely saw as a much lower risk proposition than investing in the restructuring of an existing network.

No word on what exactly Perry's percentage stake in OWN is under the deal. But given that he's almost single-handedly revived OWN, I'm sure it's a healthy one; or, at least, the contract was structured in a way that would allow for an increased stake if certain points were met.

Over a year since the partnership became official, it all now looks like a no-brainer business decision, and regardless of what you think of Perry's work, the numbers he produces (in terms of audience and earnings) are what ultimately matters.

It's proven to be a smart business move for both sides, as I already laid out above.

OWN is a 24/7 cable TV channel. Time slots, all day, every day, have to be filled with programming.

Recall the story in the fall of 2012, that said, thanks to the surprising success of Welcome To Sweetie Pie's, executives at OWN believed they could turnaround the fledgling cable channel by setting their sights on a new target demo - African Americans - YOU. At the time of that revelation, I teased that OWN would eventually become a black TV network. It's not so funny now, when you look at the network's current, and upcoming lineup of shows, including those from Tyler Perry.

So it shouldn't be a big surprise that the network has decided to nurture that viewership, expanding their options with scripted programming from a successful brand, to add to the reality-based material.

I think Oprah came to realize that change your life TV (which was OWN's original mantra; although maybe it still is) doesn't necessarily sell as well as one might think. It's easier when it's just one show among many other varied shows, on a network (as was the case with The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was an hour of TV, daily, from Monday to Friday). It's a completely different, and much larger animal when it's 24 hours of change your life programming on a single TV network.

There has to be some variety.

What I am curious about, is how long this agreement between OWN and Tyler Perry will last, and what Perry envisions for his own personal progress within the TV space.

Yes he now owns a stake in the network, but given Perry's ambition, it's not completely out of the question that he'd one day want to expand beyond OWN, whether it's with his own network, or something else.

Or is there some long term strategy yet to be revealed, that sees Perry's stake in OWN growing over time, to the point where he becomes a majority owner?

I wish I could read the actual contract that they all signed.

Regardless, in the near term, this appears to be a business win for Oprah, OWN, and Tyler Perry.

This article is related to: TV News, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry


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