The Present and Future Life of Oprah and OWN

As Oprah winds down her amazing run on network TV, we all waited with bated breath to hear who the final guests on her couch would be.  Yesterday Oprah  announced the lineup for her final week: James Frey (infamous and disgraced author of “A Million Little Pieces) will be on for 2 days (overkill)!!  The next 2 days will be spent at **Chicago’s United Center with a cavalcade of stars and the final day will be – drum roll please – Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.  I am curious to hear people’s take on what I consider to be an uninspired choice.  Of all the people I’m sure she could have had her pick of, I expected more I don’t know oomph??

And now on to the future of Oprah’s fledgling cable network (OWN).  OWN has been on the air for four months and it’s been a disappointment.  Oprah will now be able to devote herself fulltime to this endeavor and her first move was to replace the CEO who had been in place for two years.  This move comes along with Discovery Communications (parent company) voicing their frustrations that the amount of money they have pumped into the network’s launch (over 200 million) has produced disappointing ratings.  The network average of 309,000 viewers in primetime during the 1st quarter of this year, ranks it behind other female-targeted networks Lifetime and Oxygen.

This is not unusual as it normally does take a while for new cable networks to carve out their niche and achieve loyal dedicated viewers.  But in the case of OWN, media professionals have pointed to other reasons for their concerns – lack of original programming and uncohesive scheduling along with lack of involvement from Oprah herself.  Both of these issues are being addressed –

The networks newest show “Why Not? With Shania Twain” debuted to near record ratings.  In addition Rosie O’Donnell will be airing her highly anticipated new talk show in a few months – so things are looking up.   Other new original programming includes “Ryan & Tatum: The O’Neals on OWN” – this eight episode docu-series will premiere on Father’s Day and document the reunion of the father and daughter following a 25 year estrangement.

The second issue of Oprah’s involvement will also be addressed with the curtain coming down on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah herself will be able to devote herself and her resources to The OWN.

If past history is any indication, The OWN will be successful as all the other projects Oprah has attached her name to.  The question at this time is whether the cruel world of instant gratification media will have the patience to wait.

** Breaking News:  ESPN Radio is reporting that due to Oprah’s taping at the United Center next week, the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat will have to reschedule the first game of the Eastern Conference NBA Finals.  This shows you how much power Oprah wields – even over a sporting event as big as NBA Finals!!


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