Today Oprah Winfrey sits comfortably at the top of Forbes list as the highest earning women in entertainment, bringing in an estimated $290 million between May 2010 and May 2011.
Although she is raking in the cash, her endeavor to launch a cable network has been an uphill battle. But this season, she is proving that she will do anything to save OWN.
In June, she stepped up and took over the reins as CEO of the struggling network.
“I am ready to dedicate my full creative energy and focus as the full-time CEO of OWN,” Winfrey said in statement announcing the move.
Winfrey relieved the former OWN CEO Christina Norman of her duties in May due to the network delivering low ratings since launching in January.
In the historic final hour of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she left her viewers in suspense, wondering when they would see her again, saying, “”I won’t say goodbye. I’ll just say, Until we meet again.”
On October 10. Oprah will fulfill her promise of reuniting with her talk show fans through the launch of her new show on OWN called Oprah’s Lifeclass. On the series she will reach back through The Oprah Winfrey Show’s 25-year history to teach the lessons that matter most to her.
Oprah will share her most personal revelations, and what she thinks now about those iconic show moments and guests. The series will also have a companion online class accompanying the show, including actual course work for viewers.
In the sneak peak of Oprah’s Lifeclass, the queen of talk is seen seated in a studio facing the cameras while saying, “This is my first show on OWN, inspired by The Oprah Winfrey Show. Wow. Your gonna hear me say things I’ve never said before.”
For many, Oprah’s new show is viewed as an attempt to further immerse herself into OWN and also re-introduce the talk show recipe that provided her with decades of successful ratings prior to launching her network.
Brad Adgate, Senior VP of research at Horizon Media says that Oprah should have included a show centered around her talk show host persona when the network first launched. “I think this should have been done long ago, or a year earlier when she could have had a show from the on-set. This new show is a last resort effort for her. If she can’t turn around the ratings for her network, who can.”
Adgate believes that there are several reasons at play for why OWN did not find ratings success out of the gate. “She is currently competing in a very crowded cable landscape. When she launched her talk show in 1986, television was simple with just a few channels, and she was able to keep viewers for 25 years. On the cable side, she is not the first or second in the market. There are a lot of networks that beat her to targeting her core viewers. Lifetime, Bravo, Oxygen, and E! all had a head start at capturing her target female cable audience.”
WATCH A SNEAK PEAK OF ‘OPRAH’S LIFECLASS’ HERE
Oprah expert and Forbes writer Jenna Gordeau has covered the high ranking celebrity’s career for several years. Gordeau admits that OWN launched with a big bang, but didn’t really have enough strongly branded shows to back up the hype.
“People love Oprah, but there just wasn’t enough of her on her network. There is nothing about the programming that says that you are watching the Oprah Winfrey Network.”
For some viewers, finding the actual channel for OWN among the hundreds of other cable channels has been a difficult task in itself. “I’ve been hearing from many analysts and people inside the company, that the high number of the channel is the problem. It’s very difficult to find,” said Gordeau.
In January OWN introduced several shows that ultimately failed to bring in the big ratings the network was hoping for, including The Gayle King Show, Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes, Ask Oprah’s All Stars, Oprah Presents Master Class, In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, Enough Already with Peter Walsh, and Your OWN Show.
This season OWN has delivered new shows to the line-up in a second attempt to win over viewers. Some of the new series include The Rosie Show with Rosie O’Donnell, Our America with Lisa Ling, Super Soul Sunday, Visionaries: Inside the creative Mind and Oprah’s Lifeclass.
Oprah’s Lifeclass will be the ultimate test to see if she still has the power to bring in viewers.
In January 2012 Winfrey will host a second show, Oprah’s Next Chapter, where she will travel around the world and interview high-profile subjects.
“Every cable network needs a franchise show or a linchpin that you can be hyped for advertising and promotions. Hopefully if Oprah steps up to the plate and grabs the mic, she can develop a strongly branded franchise, maybe Oprah’s Lifeclass can do just that,” said Adgate.
Oprah’s Lifeclass will premiere on Monday, October 10th at 8/7c.