The Oprah Winfrey Network
The daytime titan -- about to embark on a new adventure in basic cable with next month's long-awaited launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network -- has dabbled in many fields. Yet her signature power is derived from a singular source, stemming from her ability to create a lucrative commodity: experts. Winfrey's seal of approval has been enough to help sell all kinds of products, from books to diets to self-help programs. Yet nothing has more value -- or is more emblematic of the current media age -- then the host's clout establishing authority figures, symbolizing TV's role as an expert machine, rapidly spitting trendsetters, pundits and gurus into the cultural atmosphere.
Beyond "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the Winfrey factory has birthed programs featuring Dr.
Amid a stressed economic model -- when talk, being cheap, is more prized by programmers than ever -- building personalities with established credibility has taken on greater importance. Experts fill up daytime TV and cable news, where the appetite for approved pundits is virtually inexhaustible. And the lucky few who break out can go on to leverage those platforms to enhance their marketability in other realms, from books to entire lifestyles. In this respect, Winfrey crosses over into a sphere shared with some strange and unlikely bedfellows -- including
The common thread is acolytes more accurately described as followers than fans. In a splintered marketplace, such passion is exactly what's needed to transform loyalty into a multimedia empire. All this has happened since Winfrey experienced what amounts to a personal epiphany, when she consciously chose to rise above the daytime muck and advance a more elevated "Live your best life" mantra. Winfrey has been crystal clear about the messianic aspect of her collected works. As she told
Even setbacks involving those she has endorsed -- the disclosure that
Toward that end, one of the new channel's programs, "Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the
Don't worry, the OWN message goes, just curl up in this blanket and you'll be safe. We're all experts here -- and in this space, anyway, the currency says, "In Oprah we trust."
Oprah Winfrey Network Brand Bucks Cable TV Tide
Determined to find hits, cable TV networks keep breaking out of narrowly defined brands. In stark contrast to this, there's the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN for short), a channel so committed to its brand -- the daytime host's "Live your best life" mantra -- that the specific nature of its programs remains something of an afterthought as the venture readies for next year's debut.
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(c) 2010 Brian Lowry, Variety