*Oprah Winfrey’s struggling cable channel OWN saw a 21 percent rise in total daily viewers in the first quarter of 2012, as the TV titan’s decision to put more of herself on the network began to pay off.
However, the 15-month-old venture is still attracting only 180,000 viewers a day, on average, according to first quarter data released by OWN on Wednesday.
The numbers show that viewers are drawn mostly to shows featuring Oprah herself. Winfrey’s March interview with members of Whitney Houston’s family shortly after the singer’s death drew a record 3.5 million viewers, and her chat last week with pop star Lady Gaga was watched by more than 800,000 people.
Those two shows helped boost primetime ratings for March by 35 percent in total viewers, compared to March 2011, and boosted OWN to 29th place among the 97 ad-supported U.S. cable networks for the month.
“Oprah Presents Master Class” featuring actress Jane Fonda and country singer Reba McEntire also did well for the network.
“We are pleased with our start for 2012, viewers are responding and connecting with our programming,” OWN president Erik Logan said in a statement.
OWN, a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications, has struggled to find a sizeable audience since its launch in January 2011. Last week, the network laid off 30 production staffers and canceled comedian Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show after just five months due to sagging ratings.