NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey is putting more of herself into her fledgling OWN cable TV channel, taking on the roles of both chief executive and chief creative officer, and working on a new chat show for 2012.
Less than two months after bowing out of her top-rated daily syndicated “The Oprah Winfrey Show” after 25 years, the talk show queen on Wednesday announced her more hands-on approach after disappointing ratings overall in the network’s first six months.
“I am ready to dedicate my full creative energy and focus as the full-time CEO of OWN,” Winfrey said.
OWN added that all future television production at Winfrey’s Harpo Studios will be dedicated to OWN, and that Sheri Salata — the executive producer of her old syndicated talk show — would become a president of OWN.
It’s the third change of CEO at the female-oriented network which started off well, but has struggled more recently.
OWN made a strong debut in January to an audience of more than one million Americans. But its mix of self-improvement, lifestyle and reality shows aimed mostly at middle-aged women attracted an average 267,000 people in prime time viewing hours from January to July, according to Nielsen data.
On a more positive note, OWN is up six percent in total viewers during prime time, so far this year, compared to audiences for Discovery Health a year ago — the channel that OWN replaced.
By contrast, some 6.4 million Americans tuned in regularly to the final season of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on free to air U.S. channels.
Viewers will be seeing a lot more of Winfrey on screen in the second season. The new talk show “Oprah’s Next Chapter” is scheduled to debut in January, and is expected to feature less in studio sofa chats and more of Winfrey getting out and about across the United States.
In October, OWN will air “Oprah Encore” — highlights of Winfrey’s former chat show updated and repackaged with comments from the influential daytime queen herself.
A new chat show from Rosie O’Donnell will also make its debut in October.
The original vision of OWN — which encourages viewers to “live your best life” — is not expected to change, network sources said.
Own’s top series to date was “Ask Oprah’s All Stars” advice show in January, featuring Suze Orman, Dr. Phil McGraw and Dr. Oz. But some of OWN’s most popular shows have ironically been those that allow viewers to look at the lives of other people.
They include the two original documentary series featuring country duo Naomi and Wynonna Judd, and Shania Twain. The “Oprah Behind the Scenes” documentary looking at the people and planning behind the final season of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has also been among the network’s top five programs.
OWN is co-owned by Winfrey and Discovery Communications Inc, which spent $215 million to fund the venture through the first quarter of 2011.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Roy Strom; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte