Oprah Winfrey missing her own parties
Discovery Communications is doing a major presentation to advertisers Tuesday afternoon in Chicago, but don't look for Oprah Winfrey to make an appearance.
Even though Winfrey and Discovery are partnering on the much-anticipated Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which is due to launch in less than a year and Chicago is her own backyard, the queen of talk did not clear any time on her schedule for it.
Winfrey is also likely to be a no-show at Discovery's big dog-and-pony presentation for advertisers at Lincoln Center in New York on April 8. If she does miss that one, it would be a real blow for Discovery. Every big advertiser on Madison Avenue will be there, and it is an ideal platform for Winfrey to wow them with her vision for the network. OWN, as has been well documented, has been through a series of delays and executive shuffles since it was first announced almost two years ago. Her presence there alongside OWN Chief Executive Christina Norman might go a long way toward easing advertiser concerns that this network -- after many fits and starts -- has found its path.
OWN is set to launch in January 2011. Winfrey, who is giving up her groundbreaking daytime talk show in the fall of 2011, is expected to have some on-air presence as well as her role behind the scenes as a partner in the cable channel.
At least Winfrey has an out if, as expected, she doesn't make the New York upfront. She may be in Philadelphia defending herself against defamation charges made by the former headmaster of Winfrey's school in South Africa.
In a statement, an OWN spokeswoman said, "The Chicago upfront was never on the schedule. She fully intended to appear at the N.Y. upfront; however, its now presumed that she'll be in Philadelphia for a court case at that time."
While OWN was saying Chicago was never on Winfrey's schedule, she did appear at last year's presentation there, and Discovery insiders had been trying hard to get her to jump in a cab and show up this year. As for how solid her commitment to the New York event was, Discovery was unwilling to confirm that Winfrey was going to be there before word of the potential conflict with the trial emerged late last week.
Maybe Discovery can get its other new big star, Sarah Palin, to pinch-hit for Winfrey.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Oprah Winfrey. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press