Discovery-backed OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will launch in January 2011, according to executives familiar with talks.
Now that Oprah Winfrey has made a decision to end her syndicated talk show after a quarter century, the cable giant is getting ready to move into high gear, and Winfrey is expected to take an active role. While the decision to end The Oprah Winfrey Show suggests that it will not simply resurface on OWN, Winfrey may laucnh an entirely new show as well as appear in other OWN-branded shows. "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. Discovery Communications and OWN first announced plans to launch a joint venture channel with Oprah Winfrey back in January 2008, but have struggled to move the project forward until Winfrey could dedicate herself fully to the creation of the empowerment-oriented cable to online venture.
The talk-show queen is expected to discuss her decision and more about her Discovery channel the Nov. 20 edition of her show. Executives at both OWN and Discovery Communications declined to comment on the move this evening. Though its clear that OWN will get a major lift from Oprah's ability to now promote the channel all the way through to the end of her historic run.
The back catalogue of The Oprah Winfrey show is also slated to appear on the new network, while Oprah.com is also expected to become a much bigger force as a result of the switch.
OWN will be distributed in 70 million homes and replace Discovery Health channel.
On Friday (Nov. 20), Discovery Communications President/CEO David Zaslav released a statement following Winfrey's announcement that she would end her show in 2011.
“There is no bigger brand in media than Oprah Winfrey," Zaslav said. 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, 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.”
OWN CEO Christina Norman also weighed in. “Oprah has been nourishing people through her television show for nearly 25 years, a legacy that has touched millions the world over,” Norman said 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.”