OWN To Launch In January 2011: Sources

Oprah Winfrey is expected to announce today on her show that she will shutter her syndicated talker after its 25th season winds down in 2011.

That will pave the way for Discovery-back OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network to launch in January 2011, according to executives familiar with the talks.

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Winfrey is expected to take an active role with the rollout. While the decision to end The Oprah Winfrey Show suggests that it will not simply resurface on OWN, Winfrey may launch an entirely new show, as well as appear in other OWN-branded programs

"She will be a daily presence [on the network] in some capacity," said one executive familiar with the plans.
OWN is expected to unveil a slew of new programming projects in the coming weeks.

Read more at B&C here.

Winfrey's impending announcement validates Discovery CEO David Zaslav's prognostication skills. In November 2008, Zaslaz, during Discovery's first earnings call as separate programming entity, told analysts:  "The current expectation is that after fall 2011 her show will go off of ... syndication, and she will come to OWN."
Earlier this month, Deadline Hollywood Daily echoed Zaslav's comments that Winfrey was set to leave her syndicated show, when her contract with CBS Television Distribution expired in Sept. 9, 2011.

First announced in 2008, OWN will step into the spot presently occupied by Discovery Health, which currently reaches some 70 million homes. Conversion dates have been pushed back -- the network was supposed to bow late this year. Recently, Discovery officials indicated that OWN would go on its own in the middle of next year.
OWN, which backtracked on some initial hires, named former Viacom executive and MTV president Christina Norman as CEO.

More recently, OWN tapped Kathleen Kayse, who had been heading Discovery's digital media sales, as executive vice of ad sales. She reports to Norman and Discovery Communications president of ad sales Joe Abruzzese and will have oversight for inventory on the network, as well as Opran.com.

OWN also hired Allan Singer, who had been working as senior vice president of content acquisition for Comcast, to lead its multiplatform distribution strategies. Also based in LA, Singer started his new job on Nov. 2.
Moreover, Oprah co-executive producer Lisa Erspamer will become OWN's chief creative officer and relocate to Los Angeles.

OWN is not Winfrey's only cable interest. Last December, her Harpo Films production company signed a multiyear exclusive relationship with HBO to develop and produce scripted television fare for the premium network.

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