Since launching OWN, Oprah Winfrey has done everything within her estimable power to attract viewers to her struggling cable channel, short of actually airing programs that are worth watching. Last night, Winfrey employed a new strategy: openly begging via her Twitter account. “Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if you have a Neilsen [sic] box,” Winfrey tweeted to her 9 million followers around 8 p.m. CT, right around the start of the Grammys telecast that she herself confirmed she was watching (like so many people) instead of OWN. Not surprisingly, Winfrey soon found herself on the receiving end of criticism from those who saw her plea as desperate at best and, at worst, unethical, then spent the next hour or so defending herself. (“The word ‘please’ is used as courtesy not a beg,” read one response. “Unethical a little harsh don’t u think?” read another. “’Desperate’ not ever a part of my vocab,” read yet another. “Adele! Adele! This her Year! YAAAAY!” read still another that had nothing to do with this, but is nevertheless sort of amusing to imagine Oprah saying out loud.)
Unfortunately, Winfrey’s mighty powers of self-actualization failed to convince those negative naysayers at Nielsen, whose adherence to imposing their own narrow definitions on everything—specifically their policies regarding the producers of Nielsen-rated shows not openly soliciting Nielsen households—led them to force Winfrey to remove the offending tweet. She has since issued a statement saying, “I intended no harm and apologize for the reference,” while Nielsen tells the L.A. Times that it is currently reviewing the incident and may refuse to report her network’s ratings as a result. Which, actually, could end up being the best possible outcome for OWN.