Oprah Turns To Oscars In Search Of Women Viewers, But Own Has Much More Work To Do

On a big TV viewing night, Oprah Winfrey looked to gain some visibility during ABCs Academy Awards telecast with a commercial promoting her OWN network and her show, "Oprah's Next Chapter."

The ad -- most likely a local spot run in key markets -- was followed later in the show by a video segment of Oprah receiving one of the Academys Governor's Awards. Later than night, Winfrey made a rare guest appearance on ABC's special post-Oscar "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show.

All this made sense. The Oscars are the so-called Super Bowl for Women, and ratings for key women viewers 18-49 rose a bit from a year earlier, with women 25-54 also continuing strong.

In the commercial, Oprah touted major exclusive interviews on her show. That's the kind of stuff we always used to hear from Winfrey. "Next Chapter," a show that features a lot of Winfrey herself, gives OWN its best ratings.

This weeks marketing move made sense. Winfrey's perennial strength, going back to her days in syndication, is getting these same groups of women to provide the major backbone of her ratings.

ABC, meanwhile, promoted its own new women-targeted shows such as Scandal,GCB, new fall show Revenge, and "Missing," starring Ashley Judd as a strong-willed mom looking for her son who was kidnapped. (Oh, by the way, she is also an ex-CIA agent.)

And ABC parent Walt Disney Co. ran its first spot for digital video platform Hulu. (Hulu commercials ran during the two previous Super Bowls on other networks). Disney is a co-owner of Hulu, with Comcast Corp., News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners.

Core women viewers not only make up a big part of prime time, but also daytime. The good and bad news for Oprah and other networks and programmers is that women viewers, especially older ones, are plentiful everywhere. At the same time, in a fractionalizing TV/video universe, it's harder to reach the right core of women viewers.

Both broadcast and cable networks including those specialty-minded like Lifetime and Oxygen, and those with more dual audiences like Bravo and USA -- can get sizable numbers that attract marketers.

All this means that OWN -- through its latest marketing efforts and its search for bigger and splashier programming -- is just starting its long cable network journey.

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