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OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network launches with high expectations


Soon it will be time to measure the Oprah bounce.

On Saturday, a switch will be flipped and OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will be available in nearly 85 million homes.  It is the most highly anticipated launch of a cable channel in more than a decade, in large part because of the pedigree of its founders. Discovery Communications, Winfrey’s partner in the venture, has contributed channel space and has paid more than $110 million in start-up costs.  Winfrey too has much riding on the channel’s success.  She lent her name, website and programming vision, realizing the results will help shape her legacy. 

The television industry has been eager to see whether the power of Winfrey — she can drive sales of books, candles and other products with a mere mention on her show — will translate into throngs of viewers flocking to her cable channel.

Winfrey hesitated before moving forward with OWN.  In O Magazine, she wrote that she was initially fearful that she would not be able to “duplicate what I’ve done” with “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and that gave her pause.  She eventually came to terms with the cable channel not necessarily being a way to create a “new phenomena” but instead as an opportunity to continue doing what she loves. And she knew, after 25 years, that it was time to end her daytime show. 

“In the late '80s, I stopped making television just to make television, and started making television that was going to service the viewer,” Winfrey said in a recent telephone interview.  “And that’s the foundation for this network, and that’s why I think that the network is going to work. I’m betting on myself because no one else programs this way, thinking about the viewers the way that we do.”  

Although the channel will be available in about 85% of the homes in the U.S. that have cable and satellite TV, Winfrey and Discovery have sought to tamp down expectations of a big launch. Winfrey professes to have devoted only 10% of her time to the formation of OWN.  Instead, she has been focused on the final season of her syndicated talk show, which will end production in May with its closing episode airing in September.  Nonetheless, her stamp on OWN will be apparent. 

A marquee show on the new channel will be “Oprah Presents Master Class,” a biography series showcasing Winfrey's conversations with such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Condoleezza Rice, Diane Sawyer and Simon Cowell.  Twenty-five episodes of “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” will follow the making of the final season of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”  Personalities nurtured by Winfrey, including Phil McGraw and Dr. Mehmet Oz, will be featured in prime time.  Winfrey herself encouraged the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, to participate in a six-episode documentary series called “Finding Sarah,” which, according to OWN, will explore Ferguson’s “lifelong battles with weight, relationships and finances.”

Winfrey said she is not worried about the ratings produced by shows during the channel’s first few months — despite the harsh glare of the spotlight.

“We will make adjustments as we go along,” she said.  “It’s only going to get better.”

She is ready for pointed critiques and second-guessing that comes with being part of such a high-profile enterprise.

“You know that you are not going to satisfy everyone, but that’s what maturity does for you,” Winfrey said.  “I am really prepared for all of the criticism, all of the snarky `could’ve' and `should’ves.'  But that doesn’t matter. This launch is the birthing of my baby, it’s not the raising of the baby, and that’s the important part.”

Besides, she has had experience getting crushed by the less-than-hoped-for results of an opening weekend.

Winfrey said she was devastated after the October 1998 release of the film “Beloved.”  In its premiere weekend, Winfrey’s pet project about a former slave, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison, came in third at the box office, behind the Sandra Bullock film “Practical Magic” and “Bride of Chucky.”  

The horror of watching her movie, directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Winfrey, being trumped by an evil scarface doll sent her into a depression and eating binge.   

“I’m not going to go into a macaroni-and-cheese tailspin again,” Winfrey said. “This is about having a vision about something that’s bigger than yourself.”

— Meg James

Photo: Oprah Winfrey this month taping her show in Australia. Credit: David Crosling /Associated Press.

Comments () | Archives (28)

When is she going to give it up? Can she change the world is she really trying? I can not stand her but hey she has some following. Keep it up make some differences in more peoples lives. Give all this new money to some real charitties that can changes some lives forever.

with all the negative comments I am surprised if the website does well. People seem sick and tired and bitter of Oprahs wealth

I would like to watch the NOW network, but alas, I am a lowly, air T.V. watcher. I would love to be "inspired" but cannot justify the cost of pay T.V. Once again, it is about the money. I wonder how many of Oprah's audience has cable, or dish, or whatever. The people that truly need to be inspired, probably can't afford it. How inspiring.

What Hi Def channel will OWN be on in Rochester, NY?

OHN: The Oprah Hype Network. She has no financial risk, even a mediocre success will be hailed as resounding, and we all know that Oprah's real lust is the Academy Award.

Let's not forget that during the darkest days of the 1930's Depression Americans were fed movies about "swells" living on Park Avenue who spoke in excellent English accents. This is what OWN is about. As we live through another Depression, we will see more shows about positive you-too-can-do-it-if-you-work-hard-enough. Oprah is the vehicle to showcase optimism and she will succeed. She believes in teaching a woman how to fish, not just giving to charity, which she does more that many of her peers. As for the critics and other shallow doubters, put up your own money or just shut up!

Haters are always near. It's sad when someone can be so selfish about others accomplishments. I say best wishes and many more blessings to Ms. OWN. Always remain encouraged and run on for as long as you have hope, strength and Life. In all your endeavors may good follow you for helping and blessing whomever your spirit is led to support. It's all good, be free and continue to take flight. It's a beautiful thing. G

That's got to be a pretty big vision, Oprah. She's "changing lives!" She's "making a difference!" Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....

That Oprah is so popular justifies everything I think about American women. And since they'll never publish that here, you'll just have to fill in the blanks yourself.

Oprah...you have made such an impact on the world....YOU GO GIRL


I don't understand the jealousies of many of these posts. And that is all it is. For a woman to build up herself from nowhere and to go with her dreams and goals is a great thing. Oprah has captured millions of hearts, spirits in her show and her movies of which I will never forget. Why do some resent her so for earning her money through her hard work? Guess it is because some people just don't have the gifts or determination or stamina to do such hard work. All of us have our own special gifts to add to this world and not everyone is a rich celebrity or athelete etc. Some gifts are being a great father and husband, we are all different, so be kind to those that work hard like she has. It was not just handed to her. I wish her all the best in her new show and station as she continues to give us in depth interviews, some funny, some touch the spirit, and all shows are different.

Some of the new antennas are capable of finding many cable stations and forget paying these money hungry as*Hol**. Antennas run from 40.00 up to about 100.00. Buy online or I hear Best Buy carries them also.

Go Girl

All articles Ive read on OWN say Discovery NEtworks put in almost $200 million and that t his network is a 50-50 venture with Winfrey. Does that mean oprah herself put in that same amount of money or is what she put in her marketing muscle, creativity and name recognition? Im not clear. Ive only heard that after x number of years she can sell her ownership to get even more money . Its clear OWN will definitely generate more revenue than Discovery Health

Enough with the Oprah hype already. Winfrey may just be the world's most over-exposed celebrity, and that says nothing about the size of her ego. I grew tired of her twenty-five years ago. What's left for her to do...run for president?

Oprah... I've written you before during the last 25yrs. and suggested that you go back and look at your early days...still you continue to act like you are seriously a Queen! Really, when you started you had a kindness that made me want you to be my best friend. Now, I doubt that we could be friends at all. You could just look at yourself and how EVERYONE around you is scared to be themselves around you. That speaks VOLUMNS! Get over yourself!!!

1.Just watched the premier of the OWN network lineup. As an African American in her 60s, needless to say I’m very, very disappointed. Of all the programs I don’t see anything that appeals to me, and I’m sure others my age feel the same. Of all the program hosts, not one is Black or Hispanic. With the exception of Gayle King, which is no surprise she got her own show, all the hosts are lily white. As an African American I am not interested in the miniscule material that is aimed at us. And nothing appears to be aimed at the Hispanic population at all. So, why should we even bother to watch. Oprah says she wants her network to be original and different. But it appears to be just a clone of the old Oprah Show. The reality shows, especially the show about clutter, have all been done before on other networks. I’m not interested in Fergie, the Judds or children kidnapping the parents. Why not a show targeting the dire straits people are suddenly thrust into as a result of a bad economy. Or an entrepreneurial show profiling people who have found creative ways to make a living in a bad economy that has helped them to survive. Also, with the exception of Jay-Z, who my age group is also probably not interested in, there are very few Blacks or Hispanics profiled in any of the documentaries or reality shows. In watching the Oprah Show over the years, in my opinion, I feel that she has the Michael Jackson syndrome, that white sugar is sweeter than any others as she focuses mainly on whites. Don’t get me wrong. Oprah has been very generous with her philanthropic projects. But she has never launched a non-white celebrity such as Dr Phil or Dr Oz to stardom. She even helped Rachael Ray further her career but no ethnics. I’m even sure the new program contest host will be white.

Are there not plenty of ethnic journalists, reporters and such who are smart and intelligent who would love to use her show as a springboard to further their careers? And with this second chance she still has failed to do so. It appears that Oprah and her advisers did not think out the concept of her new network very well and has left out very important segments of the population. Let’s hope her show does better in addressing this as it goes along. But, again I am disappointed in the missed opportunity in what could have been the best network on TV. Because of this I will not be watching the network.

I'm so tired of Oprah and now she's taken over my favorite channel. I miss discovery health already!!

The Oprah network is the modern equivalent of building monuments to yourself.

As a HBO fan what America does not need is another station that diplays an on-screen logo...

I am not a hater.I used to watch Oprah but then she changed.Like Kathy Griffin says...Oprah thinks she's Jesus. Plus I am sure she will have her fleet of suck ups including Dr.Phil and her best friend. Look she made them all stars and they owe her but I don't and I for one am sick of making her rich by watching her. Consider this my aha moment cause I want to watch something new.

This is nice website n good idea to talk n i think people like it...

I am angry at Oprah taking away the Discovery Health Channel. I think her new network stinks for better or worst words to express it. I use to be a big fan, but she lost me about 8 years ago when she started bragging so much about what she does!

when will this own be shown in Santa Rosa calif comcast
it says 220

I would like to make a suggestion to celebrate real life Grandmothers that now play the role of mother. They are the backbone of "the family." My mom not only raised her five children, she also raised many of her grand children and is now the adoptive mother to three of her great-grand children. I know that she is not alone but how nice it would be for them to get the recognition that they deserve. They have taken the back seat of life so that others can live. My mom Pearl Gordon is now in her 70's. She gets up every morning and cooks breakfast, washes clothes, cleans house and goes to the second hand stores to find "Thee Bargain" of the week. She then goes and gets fresh vegetables to add to her daily cooked dinner. Mom lives in a rented house and drives a used van, but she never complains, she is amazing. It would be wonderful to see her and others like her have their love of family acknowledged. She is a breast cancer survivor and she's had open heart surgery! This lady is like the energizer bunny. I would love to see her take the front seat, even if it was just for a special moment.

Miss Oprah i really need your help please save me and my family ASAP

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