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

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 6, 2014 10:52 AM
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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.

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More: TV News, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry

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  • Feather | March 24, 2014 5:38 AMReply

    You might not like her Stead-man or her BFF Gail, but you can't deny the truth. Oprah has given more voice and more opportunities, to more intelligent and artistic people of color than any person on this earth. That list numbers in the thousands. Black writers, actors, black authors, writers, black musical geniuses, black people in the film business, heads of foreign states, prominent black lawyers, doctors, chief cooks and bottle washers, Oprah has been the driving force in giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents, which opens a door for more to follow. Not to mention her nearly 1/2 billion dollars she's given to the needy.

    Not to mention putting a black family in the white house

  • Jessie | February 27, 2014 4:20 PMReply

    Definitely agree with this article....I responded to it with a blog here about why Tyler won't launch his own TV network anytime soon jmanmediazone DOT blogspot DOT com/2014/02/why-doesnt-tyler-perry-launch-his-own.html

    I wouldn't be surprised if Tyler started his own version of Netflix.....or if he eventually took control of OWN while Oprah moved her brand of shows to an app.

  • Tieuel Legacy! Motion | February 16, 2014 10:15 PMReply

    I wouldn't go as far as to say that OWN will be a black network but I will say that there is heavier involvement of blacks on the screen. I haven't seen all of the shows but Haves and Have Nots is about 50/50 black to white.

    In the long run isn't that what we (black folks) have wanted for years? More participation onscreen. I feel that this should be supported. And with the movements that are going forward, don't be surprised if Miss Duvernay and a couple of other black filmmakers are on the network soon. Isn't Oprah producing Ava's next film?

    The more scripts appear with social and family themes, the more the channel will probably embrace.

  • ChgoSista | February 10, 2014 5:12 PMReply

    As "terrawfuble" as "Single Ladies" is, it is STILL better than ANY of those TP vehicles...

  • Donella | February 10, 2014 2:18 PMReply

    I want Oprah's network to do well.

    As for "change your life" television, Oprah was queen of this domain, but the genre has been copied by lesser-thans to the point that the market has been thoroughly saturated. There was only ever one Oprah and no one did it better, but now, everybody's taking slices out of that pie--Ellen, The Talk, Latifah, Steve, etc.

    So Oprah pivots and wins the day AGAIN. That's what you do when you're the head honcho and run a sleek and lean operation. I like her business savvy. We could all learn from that.

    Perry could learn from that. Other up-and-comers are taking slices from his family drama/romantic comedy box office pie so he's diversifying into television.

  • CareyCarey | February 9, 2014 12:30 AMReply

    "Great analysis. I'm a genuine fan of both so I wish them continued growth." ~ Dankwa Brooks

    WOW! Who would have thought it? One of S&A regular readers and frequently commentor, who is himself a filmmaker, is actually owning up to watching Tyler Perry's work. BOO... HISS... how could you stain our comment section with such a class-less act?!

    Anyway, Jesse, you're an eggplant who must live in a cave. I mean, what's this mess about Oprah not giving opportunities to other blacks? Well, that's pure poppycock. So you've forced me to say it one mo' time. Why all the hate on Tyler and Oprah? You might not like her Stead-man or her BFF Gail, but you can't deny the truth. Oprah has given more voice and more opportunities, to more intelligent and artistic people of color than any person on this earth. That list numbers in the thousands. Black writers, actors, black authors, writers, black musical geniuses, black people in the film business, heads of foreign states, prominent black lawyers, doctors, chief cooks and bottle washers, Oprah has been the driving force in giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents, which opens a door for more to follow. Not to mention her nearly 1/2 billion dollars she's given to the needy. But why does some black folks still hate on her. Well, I'll tell you why, it's unfortunate but simple.

    Because of the color of their skin. Some blacks folks are so damn envious, slothful, wrathful and jealous, that they'd kill themselves before they'd give another black person their proper due.

    "Well carey,Tyler Perry is a Black dysfunction porn pimp. He thinks that because he's so dysfunctional that all Black people are as well. I think Oprah falls into this category too"

    Is that right? Well let me tell you a thang or two. I get so tired of negros that watch a movie, and then cry about how it makes "us" look. Give me a freaking break! First, it's a damn movie, okay. Django is a damn movie. The Butler is a damn movie. The Haves And The Have Nots is a damn Soap Opera. It's fiction y'all. They are all one of a thousand avenues in which one - fool - could draw a conclusion and/or opinion on any number of topics including race, sexual abuse, or rather or not the Miami Heat will win the NBA Championship.

    Come on, if a person gets their core knowledge from a damn movie or a TV program and uses that "limited" knowledge to draw a conclusion about a person, place of thang, THAT person is an idiot!

    Listen, personally I do not think Tyler Perry is a great director, but as Tambay said, somebody... millions of black folks would disagree - or don't even care. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. And, my lady records every episode of "The Have Nots" and she owns EVERY movie he has made. I have watched them all and laughed my ass off at many. But... I WILL NOT sit through one episode of that sorry, pityful, gut wrenching thang on OWN called Tyler Perry's The Haves And The Have Nots, nor that thang with the lead character Hattie. Nope, I just can't do it.

    So Jesse, lets talk about something you actually can support with facts, please. And stop hatin'

  • Jesse | February 7, 2014 12:37 AMReply

    It's a shame that Oprah can't give opportunity to other black writer/producers. Why not partner with Shonda Rhimes or the creator of VH1's Single Ladies?

    I would love to see what a show with good writing, acting, and production values could do on OWN. Sorry, but Perry's shows are awful. The writing is cheesy and they look cheap.

  • Tieuel Legacy! Motion | February 16, 2014 10:20 PM

    It doesn't seem like filmmakers are falling over themselves to work with Oprah but I guarantee if we knew the way to get into that office, we would be headed in that direction continuously. I know more than a handful of filmmakers that wrote to Oprah and Tyler in order to either act on their shows or pitch their new pilots. Smart people know power when they see it.

    As for the demographics, what are the 54+ women saying about the shows? That contains quite a few people that have kept Tyler's movies successful in the first place. God-fearing church women over 50.

  • Rocket | February 10, 2014 11:43 AM

    Maybe those people don't want to partner with her. When Oprah started her network she struggled a lot in the beginning. With the "Oprah Winfrey Show" off the air and a struggling network a lot of Oprah's shine was gone. People were not falling over themselves to work with her.

  • D.A. | February 6, 2014 11:33 PMReply

    I think your readers, regardless of how pretentious they prefer their black content to be, actually watch TP's shows. Why? because they've seen much MUCH worse from mainstream Hollywood. The only reason they won't be honest about watching TP's work is because there still is a nasty stigma among their "high-caliber" peers to not watch TP, reality tv, and etc. I know this, they will never admit it because of "dignity" or whatever word they choose to utilize in vein.

    I like some of TP's stuff, look forward to seeing more of what he has in store (saw the trailer for "Single Mom's Club" and thought it was promising). Great analysis!!!!!

  • Dankwa Brooks | February 6, 2014 4:46 PMReply

    Agreed. Great analysis. I'm a genuine fan of both so I wish them continued growth.

  • edub | February 6, 2014 4:13 PMReply

    Nice writing. Cogent analysis. Thx.

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