In Depth

Oprah on OWN: We'll Reach the Summit by 2014 -- 'Thank You for Staying With Us During What I Call the Climb of My Life,' Winfrey Tells Advertisers

By Jeanine Poggi
Advertising Age

A worn-out-looking Oprah Winfrey thanked advertisers for sticking with OWN at Discovery Communications' upfront presentation Thursday evening but implied the network won't reach the "summit" until 2014.

"If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough," Ms. Winfrey said, quoting her favorite spiritual guru, Meister Eckhart. "Thank you for staying with us during what I call the climb of my life."

Ms. Winfrey said her longtime executive producer Sheri Salata had often suggested that they should climb Mount Kilimanjaro. "I am climbing Kilimanjaro," Ms. Winfrey said, "and it's on Wilshire Boulevard at the OWN offices."

"When I first arrived in July, I felt like I was not even at base camp, and I could only see my feet," she added. "But with our restructuring and right-sizing, and really getting into the sauce of what needs to happen every day when you're building a channel, I feel like I can at least now see the summit. [We are] nowhere near the summit, but I can see the summit."

Ms. Winfrey declared 2014 as the year OWN will reach the summit.

The word "momentum" was the theme of OWN's presentation. Discovery President David Zaslav said he is happy with the channel's growth despite "what you hear in the press." OWN was the 28th network among women in March, he said.

OWN, which recently laid off 30 employees and canceled Rosie O'Donnell's talk show, is pitching advertisers on five new prime-time series.

Elsewhere at Discovery Communication's upfront pitch, Investigation Discovery announced a slate of daytime programming targeting the soap-opera fan. The crime investigation network will add four afternoon series revolving around real-life love gone awry. Soap star Susan Lucci will host "Deadly Affairs."

Stars from Discovery's bevy of networks appeared on stage promoting their upcoming and returning shows, including Tori Spelling for TLC's "Craft Wars," Patrick Dempsey for Velocity's "Road to LeMans" and James Woods for hi new show on Science channel, "This Changes Everything."