Oprah Winfrey: In Her Own Words


PASADENA, CALIF. — The Oprah Winfrey Network made a big splash at
the annual Television Critics Association Winter Tour here earlier this
month, as well as in the ratings. OWN, which launched Jan. 1 and is
co-owned by talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo,
and Discovery Communications, averaged a 0.55 primetime rating
and 505,000 viewers over the first nine days after its Jan. 1 debut, according to Nielsen.
Winfrey spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead during
the network’s recent TCA Winter Tour appearance about her impressions of OWN’s first
week. Winfrey also discusses Discovery Communications’ role in the network 85 millionsubscriber
OWN, which replaced the Discovery Health channel.

MCN: Are you surprised at the early ratings performance
of OWN?

Oprah Winfrey: I’m just thrilled about it. Who can ask
for more than you built it and they came? My dream is
that they continue to come. It’s a long-term process. It’s
not about the [first] weekend, although we were very
pleased that people were able to find us. It’s about sustainability,
literally being able to sustain it long term and
having people believe
in the process and support you in it. I’m pleased with
this phase … there may be another time where I’m like,
‘Oh,we’re off the rails. Help me ya’ll.’

MCN: How influential will Discovery Communications be
in terms of the overall creation and development of the

OW: Discovery has no input in programming. They have
all the input in financing. I have the beginning word and
the final word in creativity and programming; it’s the reason
I did the deal. That’s because
the lesson I learned from Oxygen
[Winfrey was a co-owner of the
channel prior to its sale to NBC
Universal] is go nowhere where
you have no control. So, the thing
that I know most well is staying
connected to the viewers and try to
offer them — through my own eyes
and point of view and [by] listening
to their point of view — what I
think they want to see and hear in
this network. That’s what I do best.

MCN: What input, then, will Discovery have?

OW: What Discovery does best is negotiate with the cable
operators and work on the sub fees, advertising and
all that stuff . My ability to continue to grow forward is
based upon knowing where my lane is. So I’m staying in
my lane. I’m very good in staying in my lane.