Tyler Perry Goes to OWN

Producer to create two unscripted series for the network

By BJ Lutz
|  Monday, Oct 1, 2012  |  Updated 4:38 PM EDT
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Tyler Perry Goes to OWN

Tyler Perry, Oprah, actress Gabourey Sidibe, and singer Mary J. Blige cheer happily onstage at the screening of the movie Precious.

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After struggling for nearly two years, Oprah Winfrey may have found a way to save the cable television network that carries her initials.

The media mogul on Monday announced an exclusive partnership with TV producer Tyler Perry, the man behind shows such as "House of Payne," "Meet the Browns" and "For Better or Worse."

Under the deal, Perry will create two new shows for the network. They're scheduled to debut next year.

"I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come," Winfrey said in a statement.

Since it's Jan. 1, 2011 debut, The Oprah Winfrey Network has consisted solely of unscripted series.

"We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series. He has an incredible ability to illuminate life stories and characters in his unique voice and inspires and encourages people all over the world,' said Winfrey.

Perry sounded equally enthusiastic in his statement.

"It's a dream realized to partner with Oprah and bring scripted programming to OWN. She has accomplished so much with the network and I'm excited to work with her to be a part of its continued growth."

There's a lot of room for growth. Five months after the network debuted, Winfrey put on a wrap on her daytime TV talk show after 25 years so she could give her full attention to the new project.

The network has consistently struggled to build an audience, and Entertainment Weekly reported earlier this year that it burned through at least $300 million during its first 15 months on the air. That included the creation, development and ultimate demise of "The Rosie Show," hosted by Winfrey's gal pal Rosie O'Donnell.

"I would say if I was writing a book about [launching a network], I would call the book 101 Mistakes," Winfrey said on "CBS This Morning" earlier this year.

"It's like having the wedding when you know you are not ready and you are walking down the aisle, and you are saying 'I don't know 'maybe we should have postponed it,'" Winfrey said.

Things are looking up at OWN, however. The network had a strong third quarter, generating double-digit growth in total viewers and key demos, Bloomberg reported Monday.

"OWN’s growth over the past nine months has been nothing short of phenomenal," said David Zaslav, the president and CEO of Discovery Communications, Winfrey's partner in the network.

He said bringing Perry to the network was a "major coup" and "demonstrates the power of the Oprah brand to attract some of the biggest names in television and film."

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