Oprah Winfrey is coming to cable, but her top-rated syndicated talk show won’t for at least another three years.
Winfrey, who Tuesday announced she’s teaming with Discovery Communications to launch her own cable network in 2009, said she won’t be able to air repeats of The Oprah Winfrey Show on the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network before her contract with broadcast affiliates ends in 2011. She hinted, during a phone conference, that the popular one-hour afternoon show could end up there on the new service after her King World Productions syndication deal ends.
In the meantime Winfrey will have total editorial control of content on the lifestyle and entertainment network – a 50/50 joint venture between Discovery and Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, which Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav says will feature emerging new talent developed under the Winfrey brand. Discovery will re-brand its 70 million-subscriber Discovery Heath brand for OWN.
“There’s no one better than Oprah and spotting talent and developing talent, and as the chairman of this multi-media company, that’s a big strength that we’re going to lean on,” said Zaslav, who approached Winfrey early last year about creating the network.
Winfrey said her creative and ownership involvement in OWN is a far cry from her initial financial investment in the distaff-targeted Oxygen network, in which she said she was not a participant in the development of the channel.
“I was an investor in Oxygen and I have to say the channel did not reflect my voice, and I was not a participant in the development of the channel, and that’s why shortly after the deal and after a couple of board meetings I took myself off the board,” Winfrey said. “This is very different. I am the chairman, I will be choosing the CEO…and I’ll be involved in every single element of programming.”
Zaslav said initial reaction from several operators about the new venture has been positive.
“The fact that the Oprah brand is coming is a big deal for the cable industry and will give a lot of value to subscribers,” he said. “We think we have a good opportunity to grow that subscriber base.”