OWN, the ambitious Oprah Winfrey Network, launched earlier today in the US.
It is Winfrey’s second attempt at ownership of a television channel following her association with cable channel Oxygen. She noted the problems associated with that investment stemmed from not being in a position of decision-making. Now she has her own network.
Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking $189m into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes.
The programming is intended to “inspire viewers and give them hope,” Winfrey has often said, and the network is being “built on great intentions.”
Programming includes a behind-the-scenes look at the last season of her talk show; a chance to have their questions answered by her “All Stars” – including Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice. They even have one TV show – Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search For The Next TV Star— about making a TV show.
But it’s unclear Winfrey’s magic touch can carry an entire network.
“Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it’s really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel,” said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan.
“Plus, the fact that she’ll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people.”
But the network will not hit its stride until next fall -after Winfrey wraps her daytime talk show, and becomes the fulltime head of the channel that she says she’s been dreaming of for 20 years. Right now, she is contractually prohibited from re-airing her daytime show until after it completes its syndicated run (the last Oprah airs Sept. 9). But after that, she is free to rerun the material from her old show any way she pleases.
“If you’re on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk,” Winfrey told the Wall Street Journal. “But for me, it’s not so much about going wider. It’s about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact.”
Winfrey’s Australian-made specials of her talk show will air later this month on TEN.