About 75% of deep-pocketed ad buyers interviewed in a Deutsche Bank survey said that they do not plan to buy commercial time from The Color Purple star. Perhaps it's because the color green -- as in money ripening from a vast audience hooked on round-the-clock chunks of original programming -- hasn't materialized yet. The remaining 25% of ad buyers indicated they will perhaps bite when Winfrey's own OWN show begins in the fall.The once-dubbed "Queen of Daytime TV" hasn't exactly been relegated to entertainment peasantry, Deutsche analyst Matt Chesler said in a story published on BNET. It's just that her power to attract advertisers is limited by the network's current content. Old pals Gayle King and Dr. Phil plus the In the Bedroom sex therapy show and Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag cooking segment and the occasional movie -- such as Officer and a Gentleman -- occupy most of the air time in a repeating 24-hour cycle. That isn't going to attract the viewership to command and receive stiff rates for 30-second and 60-second spots.
Thirty-one media buyers with a combined purchasing power of $5 billion spilled their strategy to Deutsche. Among the findings: 12 said outright they would not allocate funds for Oprah right now. Six will wait for Oprah's Show debut. Two would dip into funds from other female-targeted programs. None indicated they would raid the coffers they normally reserve for daytime TV, another province of women. Three would think about rearranging their fiscal allegiance to other women-geared cable networks to invest in OWN. And one will take a wait-and-see attitude.
We'd like to see the survey done again when programming expands -- and not just to Winfrey's own show, which will air just twice weekly anyway. That might not be enough to skewer ratings to a point where said ad buyers will part with their billions.
The analysis naturally hedges. Winfrey's celebrity remains formidable, and the combination of low-cost shows with her name value generates huge potential. Procter & Gamble's pledge to pay $100 million for commercial time got OWN off to a nice start. But OWN will have to generate more momentum.
Winfrey, one of the world's wealthiest and most influential women, also seems to have a knack for creating publicity. Her declaration this week on Piers Morgan's CNN show that she pondered suicide as a 14-year-old -- even if unintentional -- brought her right back into the spotlight.
Lifetime, HGTV and the rest of the female-targeted networks better not get too comfortable. And that isn't just talk.