By LYNN ELBER (AP Television Writer)
LOS ANGELES — Oprah Winfrey earned the rare opportunity to convert her media charisma into a monogrammed TV channel. Now she’s the one tasked with rescuing OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, after a disappointing first year.
It’s a high-stakes, potentially ego-shattering challenge that could make the strongest woman or man flinch. But win or lose, Winfrey says she relishes the fight to turn OWN’s fortunes around.
“Yes, some mistakes were made. Who hasn’t made mistakes? The real beauty is you can say, ‘I learned from that,’” Winfrey said.
The cable channel, which marks its first year Jan. 1, is trying for a fresh start after executive turnover and missteps that proved OWN lacked a solid foundation on which to build, this despite a Discovery Communications investment of a reported $250 million and counting.
Viewers snubbed the lineup that skimped on programming and, surprisingly, what should have been OWN’s unique weapon of choice: Winfrey herself, whose limited on-air presence will be boosted Sunday with a new weekly series, “Oprah’s Next Chapter.”
OWN has failed to improve on, or in some instances even match, the modest ratings and small audience earned by the low-profile Discovery Health channel it replaced.
“I would absolutely say it is and was not where I want it to be for year one,” Winfrey said.
Year two for OWN will reflect executive changes made last July, when Winfrey expanded her role at the channel by adding the roles of chief executive and chief creative officer to her position as chairman. Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori had filled in as interim head after OWN CEO Christina Norman was dismissed in the wake of poor ratings.
Although the channel’s ownership is split evenly between Discovery and Winfrey’s Chicago-based production company, Harpo Inc., it is Discovery’s money that’s on the line.
With more scheduling consistency, movies, original series with and without Winfrey, and “a lot more Oprah in general,” Discovery is “a lot more confident that we’re heading in the right direction,” said company spokesman David Leavy.
Sheri Salata and Erik Logan, two veterans of Harpo, were brought in to share the title of OWN president, with Logan