News

Oprah's Big Pitch

4/25/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Media empire-builder Oprah Winfrey turned ad seller last week as she pitched her new cable network, a joint venture with Discovery Communications, to Madison Avenue.

“If you're an advertiser who cares about programming with a purpose, if you want your brand to be a part of something that aims to have an impact on how people can live their lives like they matter, our network OWN [The Oprah Winfrey Network] is going to be someplace you want to be,” Winfrey said in the brief video clip shown at Discovery's upfront presentation in New York City.

Discovery held a star-studded upfront for all its networks in Manhattan, at the Frederick P. Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center, where it also said singer Jennifer Lopez and Kelly Ripa were doing unscripted reality shows for TLC. Lopez, Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos, also appeared briefly during the upfront presentation.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav basically kicked off the event by telling advertisers and agencies about OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which will debut in the second half of next year. Back in January, Discovery announced it was converting its 70 million-subscriber Discovery Health Channel into OWN, giving the talk-show queen and her production company, Harpo Inc., full control of the network.

“All the years of doing The Oprah Winfrey Show have led me to this very moment,” Winfrey said. “Our goal for OWN is to help the viewer do exactly what we've done in the Oprah show: To help our viewer realize their deepest, truest self. All the programs on OWN are intended to inspire, to engage, to help our viewers live their lives as if it mattered, because it does. I want to shine a light on how people can be more of themselves.”

Winfrey told media buyers that having her own network was a lifelong dream. “We can unleash the power of human potential,” she said. “And who better to be in business with than the makers of Planet Earth.

Zaslav described Oprah's as “maybe the strongest brand in media today.”

After the formal presentation, he said Discovery and Winfrey are still looking for a CEO to run OWN. “There are a ton of really talented people that want to be part of it. And we're excited about it.”

Zaslav also stressed that OWN is a multiplatform play, not just a linear network.

“We don't view it as a cable channel,” he said. “It's really a media company … It's Oprah.com, it's the cable channel and we're looking to create content relating to helping people live their best lives on all platforms.”

Lopez, who recently had twins, came to talk briefly about a docu-series about her own harried life with husband singer Marc Anthony.

“It's a look at her life,” Zaslav said. “She's a fascinating woman, a great businesswoman. She's going to be launching a new fragrance line. She's going on tour. She's balancing a great family and a great marriage. You'll be seeing all that together, TLC-style.”

Ripa and Consuelos said that their production company, Milojo Productions, has a development deal with TLC. Ripa will host a yet-to-be-named series for TLC, which has a first-look deal at all her company's unscripted projects.

Also, Bob Woodruff of ABC News will be anchoring a weekly eco-newscast for Planet Green, the former Discovery Home Channel that will relaunch June 4 as an eco-lifestyle channel. That show, produced by ABC News, will debut in July.

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