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TV Upfront

Oprah Winfrey Tells Ad Buyers OWN is Making It

Joined by Tyler Perry on Stage at Discovery Upfront

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Oprah Winfrey pitched advertisers on her Oprah Winfrey Network last night with more ammunition than she had in her possession a year ago. "Last year I told you it was the biggest climb of my life... Well, we made it," Ms. Winfrey said to a room of media buyers and advertisers.

Ms. Winfrey, who was speaking at OWN parent Discovery Communications' annual upfront presentation, has a lot to be happy about. OWN saw its viewership rise 30% in 2012 and has posted 13 consecutive months of year-over-year ratings growth. The press is no longer filled with regular stories about the network's challenges.

Still, the network averages just around 350,000 viewers in prime time. So Ms. Winfrey, CEO of OWN, and other executives are looking forward to what they hope will be yet another phase when it begins running its first scripted series from Tyler Perry.

Ms. Winfrey was joined on stage at the upfront pitch by Mr. Perry, whose drama "The Haves and the Have Nots" and sitcom "Love Thy Neighbor," will both debut in May. Leading up to the premieres, Ms. Winfrey will interview Mr. Perry on another OWN show, "Oprah's Next Chapter," and the network will air an inside look at the making of the shows in "Tyler Perry Comes to OWN: Behind the Scenes." (The network has sought viewers by turning the spotlight on itself before, last summer running the two-part documentary "Oprah Builds a Network.")

OWN will be promoting the Tyler Perry shows with a clip featuring Ms. Winfrey recreating her role as Sofia from "The Color Purple" and Mr. Perry playing Madea, the comic lead character in many of his movies, looking for help finding OWN on the cable grid.

OWN also announced two new unscripted series -- "Millionaire Mama's Boy," starring WNBA star Pamela McGee and her NBC star son JaVale, and "Houston Beauty," about a Texas beauty school.

OWN earlier this year said it planned six other unscripted series, including "Raising Whitley" and "Golden Sisters." The stars of both were on hand to promote the shows.

The network generated buzz in January with its exclusive interview with Lance Armstrong, during which he admitted to doping. The two-night special brought in 4.3 million viewers on its first night and about 2 million on for the second part.

OWN has also found hits with shows like "Iyanla: Fix My Life" and "Welcome to Sweetie Pies."

At last year's upfront presentation Ms. Winfrey declared that OWN would "reach the summit" by 2014.

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