By Aimee Picchi, DailyFinance

NEW YORK ( DailyFinance) -- Last weekend was a key test for Oprah Winfrey's latest media venture: Would the Oprah Winfrey Network -- OWN -- succeed as her earlier efforts have, or would her jump to cable flounder like Martha Stewart's move to the Hallmark Channel last year?

More was on the line than Winfrey's reputation. The network had promised its initial advertising partners, including giants such as Procter & Gamble ( PG) and Kohl's ( KSS) department stores, that the network would deliver viewers. Many of OWN's initial advertisers had pledged between $10 million to $15 million in ad spending, with Procter & Gamble agreeing to buy more than $100 million in ad time over three years. The network has also demanded premium prices for its commercial time: OWN ranks as one of the country's most expensive cable networks, says Kathleen Kayse, executive vice president of advertising sales at OWN.
More from DailyFinance
What Rising Gas Prices Will Mean for Your Wallet
How to Cash In on Soaring Food Prices
Dividend Payments Jumped by $26.5 Billion in 2010

"Spot on With Ratings"

Luckily for OWN, the network delivered on its promise, attracting an average of 1.16 million viewers tuning in during prime-time hours during its debut on Jan. 1.

"We were spot on with ratings expectations," Kayse says. Since the network's debut, advertisers who had been waiting on the sidelines have been calling about marketing opportunities, she adds. "We have confidence we'll have a number of significant conversations leading up to the upfront" -- the spring period when networks book advance advertising sales for the following TV season.

But the debut was only the first test. Now, OWN will have to prove it can maintain its viewership levels throughout the year. If it doesn't, will OWN meet the audience guarantees it has made to advertisers, who are paying a premium to reach its female-leaning audience?

Expecting Bumps Along the Way

An audience decline may be somewhat inevitable for OWN, points out Brad Adgate, the director of research for Horizon Media. "The question will be how it does in a month or two from now when the curiosity factor is over," he says.

Every deal OWN makes with an advertiser is specific to that marketer and the show it buys, Kayse says. In making those deals, she adds, OWN approached the market "with cautious confidence," noting that the network has taken into account that viewership may drop after the initial flurry of interest and publicity. Advertisers "are expecting some bumps along the way," she says.

If you liked this article you might like

Crazy Weak U.S. Dollar Will Make These 10 Companies Huge Winners

Analyst Rips Ralph Lauren Stock, Right After Glitzy Fashion Show

Cramer: It's Too Early To Tell If Peltz Will Win A Seat On The P&G Board

The Best Companies for Women

Nelson Peltz: P&G Needs to 'Step Into This Century'