NEW YORK — On its debut weekend, Oprah Winfrey's cable network got some healthy sampling from viewers.
During the three-hour block beginning at 8 p.m. EST on Saturday, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network averaged 1 million viewers, according to preliminary Nielsen Co. figures released Monday by the network.
OWN said that, during Saturday's 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST hours, the network ranked third among all ad-supported cable networks in the 25-to-54-year-old audience demo. OWN was airing episodes of its reality series, "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes." Only ESPN and USA Network ranked higher.
Sunday in prime time, the network averaged 822,000 viewers.
OWN, which launched at 12 noon EST on Saturday, is available in 80 percent of homes with cable.
OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is a joint venture between Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications.
Oprah Winfrey's network has begun not with a bang but with redeclared purpose by the Queen of Daytime for her new round-the-clock cable channel venture.
After years in the planning and months of hype, the moment of launch on Saturday at 12 noon EST was rather quiet.
Buried in the middle of a holiday weekend (though boasting the numerically catchy date 1-1-11), The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN for short, arrived free of glitz with a one-hour preview special hosted by Winfrey, host of the syndicated "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She offered a hearty overview of the live-your-best-life fare she will curate across the network's schedule in the days ahead and further down the line.
The strategy seemed that of a soft opening, aimed at whetting viewers' appetites so they regularly come back and sample the network's expanding menu of new shows as they roll out.
"I wanted to take the ideals of great television that we've established on the 'Oprah' show and bring them to you through a variety of new shows 24/7," Winfrey said. "Every minute of this network has been hand-selected by me for you, the viewers."
This spring, Winfrey ends her wildly successful weekday syndicated show after 25 years. But premiering Saturday night on OWN, "Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season" is a 25-episode reality series that will give viewers an intimate look at "Oprah" as it draws to a close.
In her OWN preview special, Winfrey also touted "Master Class," a series that will spotlight prominent people who include Diane Sawyer, Simon Cowell, Jay-Z and Condoleezza Rice. The show airs Sunday.
"In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman" provides counseling to couples to help them repair their sex lives. It airs Monday.
On "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star," 10 contestants will compete to win a hosting job on an OWN show of his or her own creation. The finalists were chosen from more than 9,500 online audition videos and thousands more hopefuls at open casting calls. "Your OWN Show" premieres Friday.
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AdvertisementOther shows, including reality series with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, who says, "I am broken," and with troubled father-and-daughter actors Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, are among programs promised for later.
Initially, the schedule is heavy with sneak previews of series yet to come and multiple repeats of current shows, including Winfrey's special, for those who missed them the first time.
"There are so many things happening here at OWN, and we're just getting started," Winfrey, 56, said as her preview drew to an end. "Every day, here's what I'm hoping – that you will find something here to inspire you."
OWN initially will be available in more than 80 million homes. Originally announced three years ago, the venture's start date had twice been delayed while its cost ballooned to a reported $189 million.
The Los Angeles-based OWN, a joint venture between Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communication, is replacing the Discovery Health network, which folded as a network on New Year's Eve with the reality show "Dr. G: Medical Examiner."
At the stroke of midnight, OWN then began a 12-hour heavy rotation of a 30-minute "Countdown to OWN" promo that led up to Winfrey's special and her gleeful proclamation that she's "kicking off the next chapter of my life with all of you: Yes, the Oprah Winfrey Network is finally on the air!"