Tyler Perry is refuting claims that he “saved” Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network with his shows, all four of which are ratings giants.
On an OWN-hosted panel to promote season 4 of The Haves and The Have Nots (which premiered on Jan 5) and season 5 of Love Thy Neighbor (premiering tonight), Perry said he wanted to “set the narrative straight” about his contributions to the network—he was specifically responding to a New York Magazine article titled “The Brand Keeping Oprah in Business.”
“It’s the power of Oprah that’s saved the network,” said Perry. “It’s the business sense of Oprah as a CEO to say [Tyler], come do this for my network. Yes, we have great ratings, but we’re not saving the network. Oprah herself has set that network on the right path, and she is the wind that is pushing it in the right direction.”
Perry, 46, recalled how in his 20s he once watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where she talked about the “cathartic” power of writing.
“At this point I don’t know what cathartic means, so I go to the dictionary to find out,” he joked, adding that he took Oprah’s advise and began writing, habitually. Soon afterwards, he had written his first play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, in 1992.
“Add 20-plus years to that and I have the opportunity to be on her network writing shows for her. I couldn’t even write a better story.”
After a rocky start in 2011, OWN’s ratings have turned around, due in large part to Perry’s shows. In 2015, the network delivered its most-watched year in its history, and firmly positioned itself as the #2 cable network in primetime among African-American women.
But spend any time with Perry and you quickly learn his love and loyalty for Oprah goes way beyond business and ratings.
“The gift for me is to say [to Oprah], what can I do because of all you’ve done for me,” he said. “Even if there were no OWN and I had never worked for her, I still owe her a great debt for saying those words to the stranger in New Orleans she had never met.”