MediaFile

Discovery Channel upstaged by murderers, stalkers

If the low ratings at Oprah Winfrey’s OWN weren’t evidence enough of viewer disinterest in programming that inspires, then perhaps the massive ratings growth at Investigation Discovery, a network whose shows are almost exclusively populated by murderers and stalkers, can provide convincing.

Investigation Discovery, the crime-themed cable channel that launched in January 2008, is not just getting better ratings than OWN, it is also doing better than the Discovery Channel itself. Over the last two weeks, ID averaged 275,000 total viewers, or 8,000 more than the 267,000 viewers that Discovery averaged, according to Nielsen. OWN, which launched in January 2011, only averaged 180,000 total daily viewers during the fourth quarter.

Given those ratings, who needs to spend millions on shows like “Planet Earth” when you can just air cheesy non-fiction crime programming like “I (Almost) Got Away With It” and “Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry. Those kind of shows have the fingerprints of ID president Henry Schleiff all over them. After all, Schleiff built Court TV into a cable network powerhouse on the back of similar programming.

According to a report from investment bank Barclays, the momentum behind ID could give parent company Discovery Communications “substantial leverage” when it negotiates new distribution agreements with cable and satellite operators next year. Currently, analysts estimate that ID only earns 8 cent per subscriber in carriage fees while Discovery commands 36 cents per subscriber.

As the flagship network, however, the fact that Discovery Channel is losing steam could spell trouble for its parent company, which is not only seeing poor results from OWN, but also was forced to recently rebrand the struggling environmental focused network “Planet Green” as “Destination America.”

Oprah’s network off to slow start

DiscoveryCommunications CEO David Zaslav is clearly hoping Winfrey finishes up with her daytime gig next month. That’s when she will turn her attention to the Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN, as it’s called, is a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah that has gotten off to a rocky start.

Even Zaslav acknowledges that viewership isn’t what he had hoped.  Ratings “have been below expectations” and it has been “a slower start” than he had wanted, he said on Discovery’s conference call today. The network has plowed big money into OWN — and has high hopes for it. Zaslav is now looking for results.

“As with any new cable channel, some content is working while other programming is not connected with the audience,” he said.

from Summit Notebook:

Discovery CEO talks about Oprah, her show, and OWN

Now that Oprah Winfrey has set a date for when the sun will set on her syndicated talk show -- Sept 2011 -- everybody wants to know if she will recreate the show on OWN. OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is the cable channel set to flicker on in some 80 million homes in January 2011 with Discovery Communications.

At the Reuters Media Summit in New York, Reuters Paul Thomasch put the question directly to David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications:


REUTERS:
Do you expected Oprah will dedicate a lot of time to the OWN network?
DISCOVERY: When we announced OWN, Oprah talked about it as being 'her' media company. Its a 50-50 venture. We think it's going to be very significant asset. But Oprah is the chairman, she's the chief creative officer. Shes spends a lot of time on it with me and the staff, she's involved in all the creative decisions she has a ton of energy and great creativity. We always expected that she was going to be spending a lot of time in front of the screen and behind the screen.  Its a big win for us and the cable industry that (she) will be available primarily on OWN. OWN will really feel the strength and creativity of her presence.

from Summit Notebook:

Sirius CEO Karmazin limbers up for the Howard Stern dance

It’s been five years since Sirius lured shock jock Howard Stern to satellite radio with a $500 million contract. Whether Stern can re-up with a similar deal when his contract expires at the end of next year is anyone's guess, but it ought to be entertaining. Sirius XM CEO Mel Karmazin is preparing himself for negotiations with the self-proclaimed King of All Media.

In a meeting with reporters at the Reuters Media Summit on Monday, Karmazin gave us a thumbnail sketch of his version of "The Art of the Deal."

“I could tell you, it will start with Howard feeling that he is working too hard and doing too many shows and not making enough money. Our side would say, 'We want you to do more, and get less money,'” Karmazin said.

Oprah Tweets: Blessing or Curse for Twitter?

Oprah Winfrey is expected to join the twitterati on Friday, as she posts her first message on Twitter.

According to her show’s web site: “Oprah’s getting ready to send her very first tweet! And, why Ashton Kutcher’s been crowned the King of Twitter.”

While the media mogul is certain to accumulate hundreds of thousands of followers in record time (she already has 66,000), we wonder: What does it mean for Twitter, the wildly popular mini-blogging service, which is essential to some, supremely confusing to others and whose business model (or lack of it) gives journalists fits.