It's official now: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will launch in January 2011.
A joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications, the channel was originally slated to launch late this year, occupying the channel position occupied by Discovery Health. When it launches 14 months from now OWN is expected to reach some 80 million homes, according to network officials.
"Oprah has been nourishing people through her television show for nearly 25 years, a legacy that has touched millions the world over," said Christina Norman, CEO of OWN, in a statement. "She is the life force behind OWN and will be guiding the effort for this completely new 24-hour television experience premiering in January 2011."
The rollout news comes as Winfrey declaree on The Oprah Winfrey Showtoday that her syndicated show will end following the conclusion of its 25th year in September 2011.
David Zaslav, who enunciated the syndicated end date a year ago, issued the following statement this afternoon: "There is no bigger brand in media than Oprah Winfrey. She has changed the broadcast landscape and how people consume television. Along the way, she impacted our culture and touched us all. We congratulate her and our friends at Harpo for their many achievements, and their years of creating truly ground-breaking television.
"Discovery Communications has a tremendous partner in Oprah," Zaslav continued, "and we look forward to bringing her and her creative vision, programming and unique voice to approximately 80 million homes on OWN, as well as online through the award winning Oprah.com."
The following is the complete announcement, made at the end of this morning's broadcast, courtesy of her hometown ABC station, WLS-TV Chicago:
"After much prayer and months of careful thought, I've decided the next season, season 25, will be the last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Winfrey said. "Over the days you may hear a lot of speculation in the press about why I'm making this decision now and that will mostly be conjecture, so I wanted you to hear this directly from me.
"Twenty-four years ago on September 8, 1986, I went live from Chicago to launch the first national Oprah Winfrey Show. I was beyond excited, and as you all might expect, a little nervous. I knew then what a miraculous opportunity I had been given, but I certainly never could have imagined the yellow brick road of blessings that have led me to this moment with you. These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure. And you all have graciously invited me into your living rooms, into your kitchens, and into your lives, and for some of you long-time Oprah viewers, you have literally grown up with me, we've grown together.
"You had your families and you raised your children and you left a spot for me in your morning or your afternoon, depending on when the Oprah show airs in your town. So I wanted to say, whether you've been with me from the beginning or whether you came onboard last week, I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold very dear. And your trust in me, the sharing of your precious time every day with me has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known.
"So here we are halfway through the season, 24, and it still means as much to me to spend an hour every day wit you as it did back in 1986. So why walk away and make next season the last? Here is the real reason -- I love this show. This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones, and it feels right in my spirit. It's the perfect number, the exact right time.
"So I hope that you will take this 18-month ride with me right through to the final show. Over this holiday break, my team and I will be brainstorming new ways that we can entertain you and inform you and uplift you when we return here in January. And then season 25, we are going to knock your socks off. So the countdown to the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show starts now. And until that day in 2011 when it ends, I intend to soak up every meaningful, joyful moment with you. Thanks, everybody. And I'll see you on Monday."