Corus eyeing a winner in OWN Canada after U.S. Network launch

Women TV viewers worship Oprah Winfrey. Canadian advertisers and market analysts are keen.

Women TV viewers worship Oprah Winfrey. Canadian advertisers and market analysts are keen.

Now a successful debut of the media maven’s OWN Network south of the border has Corus Entertainment ratcheting up its March 1 launch plans for the Canadian version of OWN on a rebranded DIVA channel.

“The Canadian audience for Oprah is as big, if not bigger, then in the U.S.,” Corus Television president Doug Murphy told Playback Daily on Wednesday.

“As we count down to our March 1 launch of OWN in Canada, we are similarly confident that the power of OWN will resonate with Canadian audiences,” he added.

OWN, a joint venture between Winfrey’s Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications, averaged 1 million viewers the first night of its January 1 primetime debut across the border.

Those ratings were well received by industry watchers as questions over whether OWN can attract and hold viewers without Winfrey on air after The Oprah Winfrey Show ends were partially answered.

Three years in the making, OWN is to launch in Canada after Corus, chasing female demo for advertisers, beat out rival bidders to sign a licensing agreement with Harpo late last year.

Ahead of the March 1 kick-off, Corus will allow Canadians to sample OWN stateside programming throughout January and February on W and Viva.

Starting January 7, the specialty channels will air nested blocks of OWN shows, day-and-date with their U.S. airdates.

The sneak peek will start Friday with a simulcast of the U.S. broadcast Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, where ten people compete to get their own show on OWN.

Murphy also touted the W show Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag launching on OWN stateside.

“Oprah loves that show,” he added.

Murphy said Corus will be commissioning a raft of programming for OWN Canada, with an eye to getting additional indie Canadian shows on the U.S. OWN channel as Corus continues to partner with Harpo and Discovery Communications.

“We would be hopeful that our Can-con shows find a U.S. home,” he said.

The other $64,000 question: is Oprah Winfrey coming to Canada to tub-thump for the March 1 launch?

“I’ve no idea. We’re optimistic we’ll have her up in Canada at some point,” Murphy said.

Other rumored OWN stars possibly to walk the Corus red carpet and worship at the Oprah altar on March 1: Grocery Bag co-stars Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic, Shania Twain and Sarah Ferguson.