It’s no secret Oprah’s OWN network has not been off to a good start since it launched in January 2011, and though most businesses are expected to take three to five years to become profitable, Oprah’s investors are losing a lot more money than they bargained for with her Discovery channel.
According to a new report from Businessweek, OWN may have lost as much as $330 million since its inception in 2008 through Dec. 31, based on Discovery’s annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. And what’s worse is even if OWN makes money in 2013, as its been predicted to:
“it has saddled Discovery with such high costs that analysts say the company may eventually be forced to write off some of its current $420 million investment.”
Accounting and tax consultant Robert Willens says the network isn’t quite at that point yet, but they’ll likely be there soon, while David Bank, a media analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said that OWN is the most “successful failure in television today.” According to Businessweek:
“Discovery has poured at least $585 million into OWN. It contributed the Discovery Health Channel (OWN took its slots on cable systems), which it valued at $273 million, as its equity stake and loans and interest of $312 million, according to the SEC filing. (OWN’s borrowings from Discovery have tripled since the venture was formed.) The lower $420 million investment value Discovery noted in its yearend filing suggests its share of the OWN loss is $165 million and growing.”
This year, Discovery expects OWN’s operating losses to exceed the balance of equity contributions recorded by the network. Some estimates put that number at $143 million but OWN execs say that’s inaccurate.
Advertisers are being patient with the network whose programs are now averaging between 326,000 and 393,000 viewers thanks to new segments like “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” but experts warn that they won’t wait forever. The bottom line, as Businessweek points out, is that the network is hemorrhaging—quickly.
Do you think OWN is salvageable?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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