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.
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...