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Tada: Enter the Oprah Winfrey Network

January 15, 2008 12:35 PM

Word came down today that Oprah and Discovery Communications would launch OWN, a new cable network that will debut next year in place of the Discovery Health Network.

Oprah will serve as the chairman of the new co-venture and have all editorial control in what was a non-cash transaction. Certainly OWN is in an enviable position, already having distribution in some 70 million homes as Health goes bye-bye.

Not much more is known about the new network that is described as one that will “entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives.”

Reading between the lines here, there’s absolutely no word about what her on-air role will be on OWN. So here’s a prediction: Unless Oprah is very visible throughout the day and evening, this network will be another non starter, even given its enviable distribution start.

Agree?

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Comments (23)

Andy S.:

What I want to know is: will it be added to my basic cable rate or will I have to buy a special "most powerful women in show business" premium tier to get it? ;~)

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,

Good question. Depends, I would think where Discovery Health runs, I trust it's expanded basic or it wouldn't have 70 million homes.

Or better yet ask Oprah,

Marianne

Oprah already created a TV network that "inspires."

It's called Oxygen.

Inspiring didn't work, so Oxygen degenerated into tawdry reality offerings such as Bad Girls Club that were skewered by the MSM and lowbrow narrative such as Campus Ladies that was marketed on toilet paper.

Then Oprah bailed without a word even though she was the original premise for the brand.

Oprah's brand of inspirational TV failed once. Why would it work this time?

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,

My pals tell me Oprah was very unhappy with the Oxygen team. Don't expect the next NOW president to come from that group.

Marianne

Marianne,

Interesting. Will your pals give you the date of Oprah's final departure from Oxygen?

Thanks.

Cory

PS: Given all the hype that came from Oxygen about inspiring women and empowering them to recreate themselves, you have to admit it's ironic NOW wouldn't want to recruit leaders from among their executive ranks. What went awry?

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,

Oprah has stated in quotes yesterday that she was not pleased with the direction Oxygen had taken.
That's all I know. From head hunters I know, Oprah and not Discovery, is taking the bull by the horns in terms of finding a new head for her network.

Have no idea if she's still involved in Oxygen, thought NBCU bought it lock, stock and barrell. Am I wrong about that?

Marianne

Nope, that's correct. NBC Universal owns 100% of Oxygen Media.

That said, I'm curious what the programming will be comprised of. For all we know, a bulk of the programming would probably be culled from some of the Discovery networks themselves, including TLC (it wouldn't surprise me if What Not To Wear or that freak show that has doctors telling parents what their kids will look like if they'll keep on eating sweets and fatty foods moves to OWN), Discovery Channel, Discovery Home (which is relaunching soon as well), or even the channel which it is supplanting, Discovery Health.

OWN would probably snatch cable repurposing rights to The Rachael Ray Show (ticking off co-producer Scripps [who already keeps Ms. Ray busy on several shows]) in addition to rights to non-scripted and scripted fare.

They'll make new programs as well.

Here's the real question. In a country where we have Lifetime, Oxygen, WE, Lifetime Movie Network, and Lifetime Real Women, do we really need another women-oriented network? There's a lot of them out there, but can Oprah make this one not only work but also stand out above all others?

Jeff: I completely agree with you. Here's the real question: When is NBCU going to change Oxygen's name to iVillage-something?

Marianne: Did you mean to say NOW or OWN earlier? I thought you meant NOW when you said NOW.

Apparently not NOW!

Marianne Paskowski:

Jeff,

Oprah said in some quote today that this is a network that will appeal to both women and men. I don't think Zaslav is going to recycle a lot of crap among the networks, now that he has Oprah's deep pockets. But unless her face is everyone on this thing, it is a no starter.

Thanks for the post,

Marianne

Marianne Paskowski:

Corey,
Got me, meant OWN, sorry the name just doesn't roll off my tongue yet, probably will be changed to Oprah. I hate acronyms.

M

Indeed...and let's not let the irony escape us.

Anyway, my point is this. If you're on the Cape right now I'm sure you hear me laughing. In a word, your Freudian slip is...priceless

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,

I live on the Cape full time, and I hear the roar of the surf on the West Coast all the way over here. I think we should rally to get a better name for this net, OWN sounds so egotistical.

Tata for now,
m

Marianne Paskowski:

So Cory,
Give use your best, I know your so PO'd over Oxygen, and now perhaps Oprah's new venture. Get the ball going, Joel would count on you to stir it up. I am.

Marianne

Marianne... I am not backing off.

How cunning of you, though, to evoke the name of Joel Berger. I still hear him. Man, was he loud. And opinionated. He might have been a chain smoker, but his tie always had the perfect knot.

Help me find a piece of information, Marianne. When officially did Oprah cut her ties with Oxygen? The Washington Post reports she said she left after a couple of board meetings. That would suggest she's been gone for seven years. If so, I want to know why we're only hearing about that now, given how much she hyped it in the beginning. She was on the cover of Forbes magazine promoting Oxygen. She was in Time magazine promoting Oxygen. She was all over the place promoting Oxygen. In the beginning she provided Oxygen with programming. By the time of Oxygen's launch, Mrs. Laybourne had done a great job of establishing her new brand:

Oxygen = Oprah.

Yesterday Oprah said Oxygen did not reflect her voice so she left after two board meetings. Mrs. Laybourne has said Oxygen was all about Oprah.

Somebody is lying. Who?

I think both are lying and telling the truth to be honest.

From what I remember (and I've got a strange knack for remembering things), Oprah wasn't an initial investor in Oxygen Media. She didn't come around until Mrs. Laybourne invited her to join them. Now, to the general public, Gerry Laybourne isn't a widely-known name, but she was one of the main folks responsible for the image and attitude of Nickelodeon, leading that venture to one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. That should be enough to get anything you create on any cable system.

When she left, Mrs. Laybourne started Oxygen Media, which aimed to be a multimedia venture involving magazines, online media, and the Oxygen network. She found a number of investors to help out, including, ironically, Lifetime Television (many people didn't know that Lifetime owned a piece of Oxygen), but Mrs. Laybourne needed a face for the brand.

That's where Oprah came in. Oprah Winfrey was already one of the most recognizable personalities on the planet, and women tended to be drawn to her. So, it was obvious, at least from Mrs. Laybourne's perspective, to bring in Oprah to Oxygen. She essentially made Oprah the face of Oxygen, even though it was her creation and vision in the first place.

I think egos clashed after the network's launch though. Oprah wanted the network to be in one direction, more inspirational and life-affirming. Mrs. Laybourne wanted it in another direction, more modern and less dodgy than Lifetime. Oprah didn't get what she wanted, and she left, concentrating on her show, the shows she produces, the magazine, the radio network, and other things that fancied her.

I'm thinking when Oxygen repurposed The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tyra Banks Show and almost total disappearance of Oprah After The Show a few years ago was when Oprah's involvement in Oxygen waned to the point of non-existance.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hey you two,

Cory and Jeff this makes me wonder if Oprah was ever an investor for the long or short term, but just a mascot?

Sounds like Oprah feels burned by cable and her experience with Oxygen. Remember, the deal with Discovery is no cash and she has all editorial control.

Still say the net will have problems unless she has a very active, on-air presence and co markets with her syndicated talk show and mag. She's on radio too. The marketing could be powerful.

Marianne

Marianne Paskowski:

Oh Cory,
What have you done now? I finally Googled myself and found your posting about me at Leprechaun Lexicon.

While I appreciate your high regard for me, I think it's not fair to compare me to Laybourne. She's rich, got a major payout for the sale of Oxygen to NBCU.
So now she occasionally writes a blog and doesn't respond back to her comments. Most bloggers don't, they don't like the heat. I welcome it and your invitation to speak to your class.

Thanks,
Marianne

Dear Marianne,

Of course it's fair to compare your blog with Mrs. Laybourne's blog.

1.) You're both bloggers. (D'oh)

2.) You hail from the same industry: cable television.

3.) Your blogs appear on the Web site's of competing trade publications.

4.) You're both influential women who reach multitudes of people with your message.

5.) You've blogged on the same topic: a la carte.

Of course a comparison is fair.

Furthermore, Mrs. Laybourne began her blog in November 2006 when (allegedly) Oxygen's and women's best interests were on her mind, long before she sold out to NBCU. She could have used her blog to establish herself as a credible voice for women and Oxygen as a place for women to gather.

This didn't happen.

Compare your blog to her blog.

Hands down.

Yours is superior in every regard.

Except spelling.

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,

Are you crazy? She's rich and famous and sold out, I'm just a blogger.

But thanks for thinking about me,

Marianne

Dear Marianne,

"Are you crazy?" you ask.

Yes, I am.

That said, Mrs. Laybourne may have more money than you. She may be more famous than you. She may, as you say, have sold out where you did not. But as a professor of Internet Communications who teaches blogging let me be unequivocal:

Yours is the better blog.

Hands down.

That's all I'm saying.

On a daily basis, whose blog puts more ideas into the blogosphere? Which blogger engages her readers better?

It isn't Mrs. Laybourne.

It's you.

Marianne Paskowski.

The better blogger.

Love,
Cory

Dear Marianne,

Long time no chat. I miss you. Your censor's axe cut deep. What happened? Now more than ever I want you to speak to my Internet Communications class.

Anyway, I have a few questions of follow-up for you. Certainly by now you got the packet.

1.) Don't you think that the New York Observer article on i-n-c-e-s-t made Oprah Winfrey nervous about her partnership with you-know-who in Oxygen? Maybe that's why she (Winfrey) bolted Oxygen without a word.

2.) What about those pictures of you-know-who on a stool with her legs spread apart with her hands over her private parts to launch Oxygen in Forbes. Don't you think Oprah Winfrey cringed when she saw them? Those pictures reflected on her, after all. To what extent did those pictures and the bad judgement behind them factor into Oprah's decision to flee from Oxygen without a word?

3.) What did you-know-who say to you when you called her about all of this?

4.) What did Joel Berger whisper in your ear about applauding for incest when you showed him the article from the New York Observer? What did he have to say about the beaver shot in Forbes? Especially about the beaver shot in Forbes. I can only imagine, he was such a smart ass.

5.) When are you coming to the City of Angels to talk to my class about libel, censorship, and the difference between a blogger and a journalist?

I miss you. Let's get back on track.

Love,
Cory

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