Oprah Winfrey's cable network to travel overseas

Fri Apr 15, 2011 2:11pm EDT
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three months after Oprah Winfrey's cable television channel premiered in the United States, preparations are underway to introduce the network to international audiences.

Executives from Discovery Communications Inc, a co-owner of the network, said early discussions have been held with distributors in foreign markets, adding that they expected talks to turn more serious later in the year.

"We're confident there are markets it will do well in," Mark Hollinger, who heads up Discovery's international business, said at a presentation on Friday. "We're confident there will be an international launch of the channel."

Hollinger declined to identify countries in the expansion plan. Other than the United States, the Oprah Winfrey Network can currently be seen only in Canada.

"We've said, 'Let's focus on the U.S. for now; we'll tend to this a little later this year,'" Hollinger said.

A joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey's production company, OWN launched in the United States early this year as a largely female-oriented network with a combination of lifestyle, advice and uplifting shows. Ratings have been mixed so far.

But Winfrey, regarded as the most influential woman on U.S. television, is expected to devote more energy to OWN in the coming months after the last original episode of her popular syndicated TV show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," airs on May 25.

Discovery's international plans for OWN are part of its increasing effort to build up its business abroad. Chief Executive David Zaslav spends up to 40 percent his time outside the United States, he said, visiting markets such as Chile, Romania, Russia and India.   Continued...

<p>Talk show host Oprah Winfrey poses at the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network launch cocktail reception for the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California January 6, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>