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Oprah's OWN Posts Big Ratings in New Year's Day Debut

Saturday’s prime time numbers push the new network to the fourth most-watched cable property for the night among women.

Oprah Winfrey
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The curiosity factor sent viewers to their TV sets on New Year’s Day in search of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN.

The channel replaced Discovery Health in 85 million homes. Kicking off at noon ET, a Winfrey-hosted preview of the net’s offerings posted a 0.7 household rating from noon-12:30 p.m. according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. That may not sound like much, but considering that it’s a 555% gain compared to the same time period four weeks ago and 1100% gain year-to-year, Winfrey and her team are probably breathing their first sigh of relief.

Ratings peaked in primetime with the net’s marquee show: Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes. The show, which goes behind the scenes for the final season of Winfrey’s syndicated talk show, propelled OWN to a 1.0 rating form 8-9 p.m. and a 0.9 for the 9 p.m. episode, for gains of nearly 500% compared to the same period four weeks ago and year-to-year.

In primetime, the network pulled in 399,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic and 507,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

That was far better than Discovery Health’s year-ago averages for the night; 92,000 in 18-49 and 118,000 in 25-54. Among OWN’s target demographic of women 25-54, the network averaged a .9 rating (with 1 million total viewers) in primetime on Jan. 1. That helped propel OWN to the third most-watched cable network for the night (behind ESPN and USA) in the 8 and 9 p.m. hours. But by Sunday, OWN’s household number was down 33% in primetime.

Of course, it’s still early. And OWN executives are taking the long view. Nevertheless, expectations are high for Winfrey’s network, which was three years in the making at a cost of nearly $200 million.

And Discovery Health was basically on life support averaging 148,000 viewers for its daytime programming and 252,000 during primetime for 2010, behind Hallmark (481,00 total day and 858,000 in primetime) and well behind cable leader USA (1.4 million total day and 3.1 million in primetime).