Oprah Winfrey gets her OWN network

Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:50am EST
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By Kimberly Nordyke

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Oprah Winfrey is adding a cable network to her media empire through a deal with Discovery Communications.

The channel, dubbed OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, is described as a multiplatform venture "designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives." The channel, which will be 50-50 owned by Discovery and Winfrey's Harpo Prods., will debut in the second half of 2009 in 70 million homes, replacing the 9-year-old Discovery Health Channel.

Winfrey, who is contributing Oprah.com to the joint venture, will serve as chairman of the network. She will have "full editorial control" over OWN's programming, branding and creative vision. A search for a CEO to oversee day-to-day operations is under way.

"There is no stronger brand in media than Oprah," said David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications. "The brand is aspirational, very authentic and stands for inspiring and entertaining people and empowering them to live their best lives. Discovery's core mission is knowledge and curiosity, and this fits right in that sweet spot."

Winfrey said Zaslav, who just celebrated one year at Discovery, had approached her about the venture several months ago, and it seemed like a good fit.

"In 1992, I wrote in my journal that I had a vision of creating my own network, using the platform of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' and the world we've created all these years to leverage into this kind of network that will inspire and entertain people," she said, adding that there was "an instant connection" with Zaslav. We had many conversations making sure we were aligned with the same vision."

Winfrey said programs already are in development but declined to discuss specifics, other than to say shows likely will revolve around such topics as money, work, health, weight, relationships, parenting and charity.

The current general manager of the Health Channel is Carole Tomko, who will continue to run the outlet during the likely 8-month transition. It's unclear what role she and her staff will play thereafter.   Continued...

<p>Oprah Winfrey arrives at the premiere of "The Great Debaters" at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California December 11, 2007. Winfrey is adding a cable network to her media empire through a deal with Discovery Communications. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>