TCA Press Tour 2011: Oprah Winfrey talks and talks and talks during her first press tour appearance
This is what we at ShowTracker know for sure: Oprah Winfrey sure can talk. (That, and she doesn’t give out cars or trips to Australia to lowly reporters.)
The queen of daytime TV took the stage Thursday at the television press tour—in hues of royal purple in true regal style—to discuss her new venture in TV: her recently-launched network, OWN.
“It’s like being thrown to the wolves,” the 56-year-old host said when faced with the room-full of reporters. “Good lord, I’m scurred.”
She didn't act that way. Winfrey quickly took control of the panel session, often spinning questions way out of their realm--the longest answer lasting roughly 18 minutes and 15 seconds and covering everything from her hopes and dreams to lessons learned and drilling in the message: "You can."
But back to the network--when time allowed. She mentioned what a “revelatory” week it’s been since OWN hit the airwaves Jan. 1, having grown up in Kosciusko, Miss., begging her grandmother for a television -- a plea that proved fruitless because television, according to her grandmother, was "the devil's work."
“Now being able to have my name on a channel,” Winfrey said, “It’s extraordinary.” The network, which Winfrey hopes “encourages people to love with an open heart”--got off to an impressive start over its launch weekend.
For its Saturday premiere, OWN was the No. 3 cable network among women age 25 to 54 during the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours, behind only ESPN and USA.
And while the channel is focused on bringing your best self forward, Oprah said she's determined to let others point out whether its successful in its mission.
"I don’t think it’s wise for us at this moment to go announcing that we’re the spiritual channel," she said. "There are many different ways to assert the nature of what is good without labeling it that. One of the things that makes me not anxious but accepting of the challenge is that I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes.... I made the big mistake of that when we were doing change your life TV on ["The Oprah Winfrey Show'].... It's not for me to say" that I've changed people's lives.
But running a network doesn't always spark profound revelations. For Winfrey, a non-TV addict, it meant actually tuning in and finding a whole new appreciation for those things DVR folks so often zoom past: commercials.
“Gayle [King] called from Vegas -- she was at Jay-Z’s party for New Year’s -- she called after we were on the air … and said, ‘You have commercials just like a real network!’ I’m thinking the same thing. I didn’t know I loved Febreze so much. I look at commercials so much differently.”
That's not all she's looking at. As the media mogul prepares to bid farewell to her long-standing syndicated talk show at the end of this season, she’s got her eyes on those looking to take her place. When asked if Anderson Cooper, who plans to hit the daytime circuit this fall, could replace her, Winfrey responded with an emphatic “no.”
“I’m a fan of his,” she said. “It will be interesting to see. I will be watching it closely. I will be rooting for him. What I know for sure: He will not be the next Oprah.”
-- Yvonne Villarreal