OWN ratings up, analyst keeps view on Discovery

NEW YORK (AP) ? The Oprah Winfrey Network, the 50-50 joint venture between the talk show host and Discovery Communications Inc., posted the seventh month of year-over-year audience growth in August, bolstering Discovery’s forecast that the network is set to post a profit in the back half of next year.

Citing figures from research and ratings firm Nielsen, Caris & Co. analyst David Miller said that audience ratings for female viewers aged 25 to 54 rose 39 percent in the evening prime-time hours in August and grew 45 percent for the entire day.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on July 31 that ratings for OWN in that key demographic in July were up “well over 50 percent” from a year earlier. Zaslav said then that all eight launch advertisers in OWN had renewed agreements ahead of the fall season and that OWN was on track to be profitable late next year.

Discovery has valued its equity investment in OWN at $273 million, but in March said that accumulated losses on the network had exceeded its equity contribution.

Winfrey herself has appeared more on the network since late last year following the end of her syndicated talk show on broadcast TV stations nationwide. In March, she took on a larger management role and ushered in a shakeup that included a 20 percent staff cut.

Citing the ratings trends, Miller backed his “above average” rating on Discovery shares with a target price of $61.

Discovery shares slipped 12 cents to $55.16 in late afternoon trading Wednesday. Shares of the Silver Spring, Md., are up 35 percent in 2012.