BET gets OWNed — Tyler Perry series beef up flailing network
Tyler helps Oprah’s network beef up its ratings
By Claire Atkinson
Maybe Oprah’s OWN network should be renamed Tyler TV.
Thanks to two new series from prolific producer Tyler Perry, the 2-year-old network is not only finding its audience but is challenging Viacom’s BET, which has had a near-monopoly on African-American audiences for 30 years.
Perry’s first two shows for OWN under their exclusive partnership generated the network’s best ratings since it launched to much fanfare in January 2011.
Tuesday night’s “The Haves and the Have Nots,” a drama about a rich family from Savannah, Ga., drew 1.82 million viewers in its second outing, up from 1.77 million in its premiere.
Wednesday night comedy “Love Thy Neighbor” attracted 1.8 million, an increase from 1.65 million viewers for its debut.
Both shows have put OWN within striking distance of BET.
Last week, OWN was the No. 2 network among African-American women ages 25 to 54 years in primetime, — behind only TNT, which was airing the NBA playoffs, according to Nielsen data. BET came in third place.
Last year, Perry agreed to produce shows for Winfrey’s struggling network instead of launching his own cable venture, called Tyler TV, with Lionsgate. He got a small equity stake in OWN as part of the deal.
Best known for his role of tough grandmother Madea, Perry has a loyal African-American audience that follows him across film, movies and the stage.
While OWN wasn’t initially aimed at African-American viewers, it has found its footing among that audience with “Welcome to Sweetie Pies,” a reality show set in a soul food restaurant, and “Iyanla Fix My Life,” a self-help documentary series.
OWN is backed by Oprah’s Harpo and Discovery Communications, which promises OWN will hit profitability by the end of this year.
Meanwhile, OWN is giving BET a run for its money.
Over the past 12 months, BET has lost primetime viewers while OWN has gained, according to an analysis by Horizon Media research chief Brad Adgate.
BET averaged 714,000 viewers in primetime, down from 816,000 in the period spanning June 2011 to May 2012. Over the same time, Oprah’s average audience rose from 250,000 to 315,000.
BET didn’t return requests for comment.
And OWN isn’t far behind Viacom’s BET when it comes to affiliate fees, either.
BET is expected to bag $220.8 million in fees from cable and satellite-TV operators this year, versus OWN’s $197.6 million, according to SNL Kagan. Both collect around 20 cents a subscriber per month from distributors.
BET, acquired by Sumner Redstone’s Viacom for $2.3 billion in 2000, is still ahead in ad revenue, raking in $360.7 million compared with OWN’s projected $128.1 million.
Adgate said it remains to be seen if Perry’s shows continue their ratings momentum after their big premieres.
“But it’s very encouraging,” he said. “It’s very smart to bring in another strong, successful entrepreneur. That’s a great way to grow the network.”