The long haul of Oprah's farewell over the next year won't be much of a farewell, after all. She'll be leaving network television, sure, but her role on cable's new Oprah Winfrey Network won't just be behind the scenes. She announced today she's planning a new show -- at night.
That's just part of today's announcement of new programming planned for the cable venture, which finally goes live next January.
"Oprah's Next Chapter" will liberate Oprah from a sofa and a studio. The show will spotlight her in conversation and exploration around the world. "From the Taj Mahal to her beloved oak tree, the Great Wall to her own teahouse, it's a whole new kind of Oprah show," according to the network. "If she can dream it, she'll do it!"
"My vision for OWN is to create a network that inspires our viewers and makes them want to be who they are on their best day," Winfrey said as part of the statement.
"Oprah's Next Chapter" is scheduled to premiere in late 2011 -- not long after she shutters her syndicated network talk show at the close of its 25th season.
A joint venture of Winfrey's Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications Inc., OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is now set to sign on Jan. 1 after missing two earlier deadlines. It will be available in approximately 80 million homes, replacing the Discovery Health Channel.
Other shows announced Thursday for OWN include:
"Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind" -- on which big-name talents take viewers inside their creative process, offering an opportunity to see how they bring their art to life. Included on the roster are Academy Award-winning director James Cameron, Grammy Award-winning musician Lady Gaga and photographer Annie Leibovitz.
"Your Own Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star" -- produced with reality TV giant Mark Burnett, will mount a nationwide search to discover the next big TV personality.
"Gayle King Live!" -- brings to TV the morning radio show of Oprah's best friend.
"Why Not? With Shania Twain" -- a reality show chronicling the trials and triumphs of the top-selling country music star.
"Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season," a "docuseries" that takes viewers behind the scenes of the final season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"Breaking Down the Bars," billed as a prison show whose women inmates have a shot at rehabilitation and atonement.
"Enough Already" sends home-organization guru Peter Walsh on a quest to help people declutter their lives.
"In the Bedroom With Dr. Laura Berman" aims to help couples improve their relationships and sex lives.
"Inside With Lisa Ling" brings viewers reports on unexpected people from far-flung locations.
"Kidnapped by the Kids" sets the stage for parents caught up in a world disconnected by technology and hectic lifestyles to get a wake-up call when their kids take drastic steps to reclaim Mom and Dad.
"The Miracle Detectives" sets a believer and a skeptic on the trail of amazing events that couldn't possibly have happened -- or could they?
"Oprah Presents: Master Class" features prominent personalities hand-picked by Oprah (including Bono, Simon Cowell, Lorne Michaels and Condoleezza Rice) who share their stories, insights and lives.
"The Swell Life" takes a look inside the family of former competitive surfer Izzy Paskowitz, his wife Danielle and their three children (one of whom is autistic), as well as their surf-school business.
"Searching" puts search specialist and genealogist Pam Slaton on the trail of long-lost friends and family members.
Paula Abdul walked away from her judging duties on "American Idol" (to be replaced by Ellen DeGeneres, who got into it last night with ol' Simon Cowell), and everyone asked what the heck she'd do next? What could she do?
A rumor was floated this week in the National Enquirer that Abdul had received the personal "go-ahead" from Oprah Winfrey to assemble a pilot chat show of her own on OWN, Oprah's forthcoming cable network. She was allegedly going to have celebs on the show "telling inspirational stories."
But that's not true, according to Harpo reps, who told "Access Hollywood" that there is "no truth to the rumor." Even Abdul's own PR person couldn't confirm it.
So we're back to the original rumors: that she'll follow Simon as a judge to his new U.S. talent show, "The X Factor," set to launch in fall 2011.
When pressed about the rumors on a radio show, she said, "Drop a clue? Oh, I'm gonna be going back to my roots and doing a TV show that has something to do with my roots."
Leave it to the synergy genius of Oprah & Co. to find a way for the daytime talk queen to be in two places at once.
Oprah's new cable network debuts next January. But her daytime talk show will run through September 2011, and her talk show contract forbids her to appear in another talk show on the cable network until the original gig ends. So does that mean we won't see Oprah on the Oprah Winfrey Network for its first nine months?
Of course not. In fact, not only will she be the promotional face of OWN as it launches, but the New York Times reports today that one of OWN's first shows will be a reality show ... about the end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"Behind the Scenes: Oprah's 25th Season" will begin airing on OWN when the network starts in January.
Says the NYT:
Christina Norman, the chief executive of OWN, said in a telephone interview that "Behind the Scenes" was, "the thing that everybody wants to see, in some ways: How does it get made? What happens when it goes wrong and what happens when it goes right?"
She said the producers would compile the weekly episodes as quickly as possible. Ms. Winfrey will share her memories about her talk show in "Behind the Scenes."
Four other OWN shows are being announced today:
"Kid-napped," in which children rescue allegedly workaholic parents
"Miracle Detectives," in which spiritual skeptics investigate such matters with believers
"Sentenced," which chronicles a women's prison in Indiana
"Search," in which a woman finds long-lost family members
Oprah will soon shutter her syndicated daytime talk show and move to her own cable network (now with a new tagline). Another famous (and infamous) daytime talk queen will soon also move to cable.
Martha Stewart announced this morning she has signed a deal to move "The Martha Stewart Show" to the Hallmark Channel, effective this September.
And though Stewart isn't getting her own entire cable channel, she is carving out her own slice of Hallmark: After Stewart's show, Hallmark will air 90 minutes of programming created by Stewart's production company.
For Hallmark, which has built a strong audience in the 25-54 demographic with its movies, landing Stewart is a high-profile move that it hopes will broaden its appeal. While the channel gets decent ratings, it is not as strong in urban and wealthy markets as it is elsewhere. Stewart caters to an upscale audience that the channel hopes will translate to stronger advertising dollars.
That's going to be the tagline for Oprah's new cable network, OWN.
And remember: it's not called the Oprah channel.
"This network is not called Oprah, it's called OWN -- it's about owning your challenges, your relationships, and moving forward in a positive way," said Discovery networks leader David Zaslav, in a brief Q&A session Monday during a convention for the National Association of Television Program Executives. The OWN network will be part of the Discovery group.
"There is nobody that's in this Oprah space, the 'Live Your Best Life tools for your life' space," he said. "Oprah is not just a great brand, but she's a great creative, she's incredible at finding talent, and she's a great talent for this mission, which is really her mission in life."
That's just a tease. Details about OWN's programming are tightly protected and likely won't be revealed until this spring.
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?
With the show's syndication contract to CBS up in 2011, Winfrey would be free to move the show to her own long-delayed cable channel, Oprah Winfrey Network.
Finke reports that Winfrey's struggling network has had trouble launching without the daytime diva's own talk show. The Discovery Communications associated network allegedly gave Winfrey the ultimatum to move her show to the new channel or risk losing the cable network entirely.
Winfrey will reportedly make the announcement public within the next several weeks.
"Jen became fascinated with the format after spending time with Chelsea," an OWN source told the Express. "When she saw Oprah she mentioned that it would be fun to do a chat show and Oprah seized the moment and suggested they front one together for her network."
Aniston currently fetches between $5 million and $7 million permovie; she's now starring in "Love Happens." But she might not be making huge bucks on this project. "Her salary is yet to be determined. She is doing this for one reason only; she absolutely wants to do it," the source said.
Oprah Winfrey isn't going anywhere just yet -- and might stick around daytime TV even after her contract is up in 2011.
Winfrey told Extra last night at a fundraiser for Essence Magazine's Susan Taylor that she'll definitely be fulfilling her contract, and hinted at the prospect of a new one.
"I'm a girl that keeps her word. I have a contract till 2011, so right now that's what I have until someone writes me another one....I'm going to fulfill my contractual obligations and fulfill them happily."
Rumors speculated last month whether Winfrey might be leaving daytime TV after Discovery CEO David Zaslav -- who is helping launch the "Oprah Winfrey Network" -- made remarks that Winfrey might bring her show to the new cable channel in the future.
"The expectation is that after , her show will go off of ABC in syndication and she will come to OWN."
A Harpo spokeswoman at the time made clear that no decision about the show has been made at the time.
"While David Zaslav's comments are true that Oprah's current contract to produce 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will expire in 2011, she has not made a final decision as to whether she will continue her show in syndication beyond that," said Lisa Halliday.
According to editor-at-large Patricia Sellers, Susan Lyne -- the former CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia -- is in talks with Winfrey about taking on some sort of leadership role at Oprah's new OWN network.
It was rumored that Lyne (shown left) was being courted to run the new network. However, Winfrey announced yesterday that Robin Schwartz -- president of Regency Television -- would be heading up the new network.
Lyne is credited with boosting ratings during her stint at ABC for developing Desperate Housewives, which continues to be a thriving hit for the network.
President of Regency Television -- Robin Schwartz -- has been named the president of Oprah Winfrey's new cable empire: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the talk show host announced today.
Set to launch next year, OWN takes over the now Discover Health Channel and will be based out of Los Angeles. Winfrey's currently produces her daily television show in Chicago, and her monthly "O" magazine in New York.
“I look forward to working with Robin to build a network that will celebrate the best in people,” said Oprah Winfrey, chairman of OWN, in a statement.
Programming for the network has yet to be announced, with speculation continuing over when reruns of Winfrey's popular talk show might surface on the channel.