Stephen Foley: Oprah, Queen of Daytime, finds her crown is slipping with this OWN goal
Stephen Foley is a former Associate Business Editor of The Independent, based in New York. He left in August 2012. In a decade at the paper, he covered personal finance, the UK stock market and the pharmaceuticals industry, and had also been the Business section's share tipster. Between arriving with three suitcases in Manhattan in January 2006 and his departure, he witnessed and reported on a great economic boom turning spectacularly to bust. In March 2009, he was named Business and Finance Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards.
Saturday 24 March 2012
US Outlook The naysayers might have got it right when they said Oprah Winfrey couldn't spin her brand of hopey-changey lifestyle television into a whole cable channel. She may have been Queen of Daytime TV, they said, but what about prime time? What about late night? When the Oprah Winfrey Network launched last January into the crowded line-up of female-focused channels, industry veterans predicted it would end the way of all previous attempts to build a channel around a single personality – in failure.
For the record, I am not ready to count Oprah out yet, but, oh dear, things are looking very ropey. With the exception of its founder's once-a-week talk show, Oprah's Next Chapter, OWN's viewing figures have been dismal.
In the past week she has had to cancel another flagship programme, a talk show by her pal Rosie O'Donnell, and lay off 20 per cent of OWN's staff.
Wall Street is pencilling losses of $142m (£90m) for the channel this year and Discovery Communications, which owns half, may have to write down tens of millions of dollars ofits investment.
On Discovery's last investor conference call, analysts began asking how easy it would be to terminate the joint venture with Oprah.
It is certainly true that OWN underestimated the difficulty in starting a lifestyle channel from scratch, and overestimated the lure of Oprah's name to production companies who continue to pitch their best ideas to more-established channels.
But Oprah herself has made some terrible choices, papering the schedule with earnest programmes about people finding themselves (from Sarah Ferguson on down) and dealing with infidelity and other personal issues. The drama, the conflict and the narrative drive of the best in reality TV is too often missing from these insipid self-improvement shows.
Self-improvement is, of course, the Oprah brand in a nutshell, and OWN has been set up in such a way that every programme choice needs to be measured against that brand, and approved by the woman herself.
What the network needs, and urgently, is more diversity and edgier content.
Oprah appears to have set up a terrible conflict of interest. The shows that best support her existing brand are going to kill her fledgling channel. How willing is she to evolve? Is she going to go all-in? It is time for the Queen of Daytime TV to decide if she is a brand or if she is a network executive.
The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action
- 1 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 3 Scottish referendum 'English question': Tory MPs call on David Cameron to create an English first minister in wake of No vote
- 4 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...