‘O’ Tops TV Critics Hype Fest

1/10/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Pasadena, Calif. — Even
in the hyper-hyped world
of the Television Critics
Association winter tour,
talk-show queen Oprah
Winfrey still drew the biggest

Winfrey addressed several
hundred TV writers
last Thursday during Discovery
TCA presentation block
and said she was excited
about the early returns
from the Jan. 1 launch of
OWN: The Oprah Winfrey
Network — a joint venture
between Winfrey’s Harpo
Inc. production company
and Discovery Communications.

The network averaged 3 million viewers in its first three
days on air, according to OWN CEO Christina Norman.
Through Tuesday, the network is averaging 637,000 prime
time viewers, up 81% from channel-berth predecessor Discovery

Winfrey told Multichannel News during an OWNsponsored
dinner party Thursday night that she’s happy
with the early performance.

“My dream is that they continue to come,” she said. “It’s
a long process … it’s not about this weekend, although we’re
very pleased that people were able to find us. It’s about being
able to sustain in the long-term and having people believe
in the process. But I’m pleased with this phase.”

Discovery Communications chief operating officer Peter
Ligouri said during opening remarks for the programmer’s
TCA presentation that
the company is also pleased
with the network’s start.

“Currently our ratings
are strong and the programming
lineup is currently
articulating Oprah’s
voice, vision and intentions,”
he said.

Winfrey also made
news during Thursday’s
Turner Broadcasting System
presentation when it
was announced that she
would be the first guest
on CNN’s new primetime
show, Piers Morgan Tonight.
Morgan, who on
Jan. 17 will take over the 9
p.m. timeslot long held by
Larry King Live, said he’s
delighted to have Winfrey as his first guest.

“She’s not only the biggest celebrity, but she is a remarkable
businesswoman, which makes her a completely
unique character,” Morgan said. “I defy any of
you to watch this show and not enjoy that. I think it is a
great interview. It will absolutely encapsulate what I am
trying to do.”

Piers Morgan Tonight
executive producer Jonathan
Wald said the other first-week guests for the talk show will
be announced next week.

Other major TCA announcements through Thursday

TLC: The life of controversial evangelist Ted Haggard
will be explored in a new special scheduled for Jan. 16.
The one-hour special, Scandalous, follows Haggard and
his family as they look to launch a new ministry in Colorado
Springs, Colo. — the same town he was exiled from
five years ago after the once-powerful pastor was caught
having a sexual encounter with a male prostitute.

Discovery Channel: The network will launch a
Chicago-based spinoff of its popular reality series Cash
this summer.

The new series will be hosted by comedian Beth Melewski
and will follow a similar format to the Emmy
Award-winning New York-based series. The original
Ben Bailey-hosted Cash Cab will continue in the spring of
2011 with new episodes, according to Discovery officials.

Also, Kidnap & Rescue will explore the people who risk
their lives to rescue innocent victims taken both within
our boarders and internationally.

The 10-episode series tells stories through cinematic
recreations of real-life kidnappings, the rescue and recovery
planning and the outcomes — both successful and
tragic, according to network officials.

And Out of the Wild will follow a group of Americans as
they use very few supplies to find their way out of a remote
corner of Venezuela’s southern frontier and back to civilization,
network officials said.

TV Guide Network has acquired the exclusive U.S.
rights to an episode of the United Kingdom’s Piers Morgan’s
Stories featuring Scottish singer Susan Boyle,
which it will air Jan. 10.

TV Land has teamed with ABC Daytime to design a
crossover television event between the characters of ABC
soap All My Children and the cable network’s top sitcom,
Hot in Cleveland.

Continuing a storyline from last season’s Cleveland,
Victoria Chase (Wendie Malick) will appear on All My
and soap stars Susan Lucci, Michael E. Knight
and Darnell Williams will guest star on Hot in Cleveland.

ID: Investigation Discovery will premiere in February
The Injustice Files, a series which looks to explore some
of the country’s unsolved, racially motivated crimes of
the civil-rights era.

Broadcasting & Cable editors contributed to this report.