Oprah Winfrey, the once unassailable empress of talk show television, admitted for the first time today that she made “101 mistakes” in trying to launch her own cable network and that had she known then what she knows now she probably would never have tried.
Since its debut in January 2011, the network, a joint venture with Discovery, has failed to gain much traction even from the audiences that kept her in the ratings stratosphere for 25 years as host of, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’. Even after showing some improvement since the start of this year, it is still only attracting about 180,000 viewers a day, well below projections.
“The idea of creating a network was something that I’d wanted to do, had I’d known that it was this difficult, I might have done something else,” Ms Winfrey told CBS News while insisting that course corrections she had taken since made her confident the network, called OWN, could recover its balance.
The network has not been helped by repeated bouts of negative press, the most recent earlier this spring when it laid off 30 production personnel. It also cancelled a talk show that was launched amid hopeful fanfare just five months ago with the comedian and Winfrey pal Rosie O’Donnell as host.
The experience has apparently been searing for the 58-year-old Chicago native and Barack Obama backer who not so long ago seemed to have an entertainment Midas touch, producing not just her talk show but a best-selling magazine as well as film and Broadway productions. “I would say if I was writing a book about it, I could call the book ‘101 mistakes.’” Among them she said, was going on the air too soon.
“Launching when we really were not ready to launch,” would be among the top five errors, she said. “It’s like having the wedding when you know you are not ready and you are walking down the aisle, and you are saying, ‘I don’t know ... maybe we should have postponed it.’”
The channel was described from the start as an attempt to replicate on cable the relentlessly “inspirational” tone set by her magazine ‘O’. And despite the slow start she is not about to give up, she said.
“I believe that I am here to fulfill a calling, that because I am a female who is African American who has been so blessed in the world, there is never going to be a time to quit,’ she said. “I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do and that is using my voice and using my life to try to inspire other people to live the best of theirs.”