TCA 2011: Oprah Winfrey is here, and in charge at OWN
Walking on stage Friday morning at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Beverly Hills, Winfrey told a room full of writers that she gave herself the title of chief executive. Winfrey stepped into the role earlier this month following the ouster of OWN's first chief executive, Christina Norman.
She and Discovery Communications Inc., her partner in the venture, wanted to hit the reboot button after the channel's bumpy start. They also wanted to give Winfrey the opportunity to populate the ranks with executives she felt comfortable with, those who had worked for her on her Chicago-based syndicated show.
It is her network after all. Discovery Communications owns only 50%.
"I'm here," Winfrey said Friday, noting that she was not relaxing on sugar-soft sandy beaches on some Caribbean isle. That big vacation she was going to enjoy after bringing her syndicated show in for a successful landing in May after 25 years on the air? Well, it didn't happen.
Instead, she is going to work at her network located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
"I'm in the office, and at home, listening to budget meetings, and marketing meetings and talking about how to strategize and make his network everything that we know that it can be to fulfill the potential of the vision," Winfrey said. She introduced the latest two executives to join OWN from her company, Harpo, in Chicago: Sheri Salata and Erik Logan. The pair are now presidents of OWN.
"My focus now is on getting to know and understand our viewers," Winfrey said.
She announced the "Oprah Winfrey Show" library, all 4,561 episodes, would be repackaged and run weeknights at 8 p.m., beginning this fall, under the title "OWN Your Life (the Oprah class)."
The idea, she said, came to her while she was standing at her kitchen window.
"This is a dream come true for me, having this platform," she said. "I want to embrace the idea of having the world's biggest classroom. Do that in a way that was not just throwing [my] shows up in the air. We're going to take the 4,561 shows and use them as a teaching tool, repackaged and rehosted by myself in ways that we can teach people how to live their best lives."
-- Meg James
Photo: Oprah Winfrey speaks at the 2011 Summer Television Critics Assn. press pour in Beverly Hills. Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images.