OWN's Focus on Real Black Women: It's Working. What Took So Long?

Iyanla Vanzant, La Toya Jackson and Kim Whitley just might be saving the network. Some would say we could have predicted this. 

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Oprah Winfrey (Getty Images)

In a piece for the Daily Beast, Allison Samuels reflects on the announcement of the renewal of three of the Oprah Winfrey Network's top reality shows: Iyanla: Fix My Life, starring Iyanla Vanzant; Life With La Toya, starring La Toya Jackson; and Raising Whitley, starring Kim Whitley, all of which feature black women as their starring characters. They're credited with increasing OWN's ratings overall and propelling the once-struggling cable station to the No. 1 viewing choice for African-American women on Saturday nights.

In other words, you could argue that shows about the actual lives of African-American women are saving the network. Why'd it take so long to get here? 

But oh, what a difference two years can make. When OWN debuted in 2011 a amid much fanfare, the weekly lineup had little in common with its current offerings. Names like Shania Twain, Sarah Ferguson, The Judds, and Rosie O'Donnell were the famous faces being touted as Winfrey and team tried to recapture the mainstream and very diverse audience she'd enjoyed for nearly 20 years on her hugely successful The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Winfrey's decisions on programming were questioned by some, including me, who wondered why a network owned by an African-American woman would feature so few. To be fair, Winfrey's BBF Gayle King was given an early-morning show, but that barely counts and didn't last very long. 

Whatever her reasoning, the choice of initial shows for OWN did poorly among cable watchers, resulting in pretty dismal ratings and a game of musical chairs in top management. Winfrey's critics had a field day with what appeared to be a rare misstep by the otherwise shrewd business woman ...

Read more at the Daily Beast.  

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