How much will Oprah OWN her new cable channel?

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How involved will Oprah be in her new cable TV channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network? Will she mostly be behind the scenes, calling the shots and making programming decisions? Or will she be on screen, hosting a show or appearing on others' shows?

That's a question mulled lightly by fans but quite seriously right now by the television executives at the Discovery Channel. OWN will go live in 2011 via the existing cable channel Discovery Health. And the Wall Street Journal reports this week that Discovery execs are talking to Oprah, trying to get an answer to those questions.

The level of Oprah's involvement, no surprise, likely will be directly proportionate to the success (at least initially) of the new channel. That's the big bet Oprah is making, anyway: that her mega-popularity via one daytime talk show can transition to an entire 24/7 cable network.

WSJ reports: "At an investor conference in San Francisco, [Brad Singer, chief financial officer with Discovery Communications Inc.] identified OWN as one of the company's most promising growth opportunities, but he said the key question of how much Winfrey herself will actually appear on the network is still being negotiated."

Oprah has a 50 percent stake in the new channel, so she has a big incentive to see it financially successful.

Part of that financial success might hinge on how much money the new channel can command from cable TV providers, like Comcast. If the Oprah Effect makes OWN more valuable than Discovery Health has been -- and it's hard to imagine that won't happen -- then Discovery can make providers pay more to include it in their lineups. Currently, for instance, providers pull 12 cents from each subscriber to "buy" the Discovery Health channel; The New York Times reports that OWN, with Oprah behind it, could command as much as 50 cents.

Translation: Oprah's helping to jack up your cable bill.

In the meantime, the question remains whether Oprah plans only to pull the strings on the new channel or to float through its programming with shows of her own, infomercials, guest appearances, what have you.

What would YOU like to see Oprah do on her new network?

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I will definitely pay an extra 50 cents to get my dose of daily Oprah.

I have a proposal for a TV show for The Oprah Winfrey Network. It's a reality game show with a variety show bent. The content has already been created in the form of a board game that includes 3,600 questions ... which makes a terrific complementary product offering.

The name of the game is currently Phraseoff. Having watched many people play the game has spawned the idea for a game show for which The Oprah Winfrey Network would be the perfectly suited network. It is an opportunity for OWN to showcase the network’s positive, upbeat, familial programming and an opportunity for Oprah to use her celebrity connections.

It would be an entertaining family game show with sidebars featuring many celebrities and interesting facts. For example, explaining the derivation of a cliché like "It's raining cats and dogs”; having Bono explain to his enormous fan base where his nickname came from; verifying why Chicago is known as the Windy City when it’s not even one of the top 10 windiest US cities.

It has been field tested many times and has consistently been met with rave reviews. I'm searching for a visionary genius to give the show the cachet that it warrants. I'd be happy to meet with someone from OWN for 10 minutes to show her/him the game and give her/him a quick overview of my own vision for the television show.

Phraseoff is destined to provide considerably more entertainment value to the public than a lot of the stuff currently on television. Please be in touch if you have the vision and passion to help broaden OWN’s horizons. Thanks for your consideration.

David Thornbury


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on January 7, 2010 1:02 PM.

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