Oprah gets her OWN network


Discovery Communications announced a deal with Oprah Winfrey to launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in mid-2009, replacing the Discovery Health Channel, currently available in 70 million homes. The new venture will be owned 50/50 by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and Discovery.

"Fifteen years ago, I wrote in my journal that one day I would create a television network, as I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold. For me, the launch of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Network’ is the evolution of the work I’ve been doing on television all these years and a natural extension of my show," said Winfrey in announcing the new venture.

Winfrey is not actually new to the business of launching a cable network. She was an original investor in Oxygen, although it is not clear that she or anyone else turned much of a profit when the network was sold to NBC Universal last year for 925 million bucks.

No cash is changing hands in creating OWN. Winfrey will serve as Chairman of The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC. The search is underway for a CEO. In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN’s programming, branding and creative vision.

Discovery Communications will contribute to the venture the Discovery Health Channel, as well as handle distribution, origination and other operational requirements. Both organizations will contribute advertising sales services to the venture.

TVBR observation: It is clear that Oprah Winfrey is an entertainment franchise, so this venture makes a lot of sense for discovery, which is only giving up its least-watched cable network. The new network won’t have Winfrey’s daily TV show, since that syndication contract has several years to run. But that’s actually good for her. So long as Winfrey keeps building her already sizeable audience on broadcast TV, that just helps increase interest in her start-up cable network.