Oprah Winfrey is moving from daytime television to prime time, the talk show host announced Thursday. The new show, titled “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” is tentatively scheduled to debut in late 2011, around the same time “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” her syndicated hit show produced in Chicago, signs off after 25 years.
Ms. Winfrey made the announcement in advance of a presentation in New York this week to potential advertisers. Her new show is considered the flagship of the cable network she and Discovery Networks plan to jointly launch in January 2011. “OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network” is very likely the first television network based around a single person.
“My name’s going to show up on that grid a lot,” she told The Wall Street Journal Thursday.
Branding her image is something Winfrey knows something about. She has built an empire upon the two consistent themes of her show: self-improvement and celebrities. Through the years she has successfully launched enterprises into all forms of media with great success. They include: O The Oprah Magazine, Oprah Radio, a channel on XM Sirius Radio, and Harpo Productions, the production company that produces her show and several hit films and television shows.
Wayne Friedman, west coast editor of MediaPost, an media industry trade website, says the cable network will be no different.
“She’s the face. I’m sure whatever logo or marketing stuff they use she’s going to be there. It’s going to make the viewer think she’s looking down upon all of it,” Mr. Friedman says.
The network will host 15 original shows, many of which have self-improvement themes or else directly feature Winfrey herself. Mark Burnett, the television producer best known for creating the hit reality series “Survivor,” will be producing for OWN the new series “Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star.”
Winfrey’s current daytime show will become the star of its own series: “Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season,” which will track the show’s final months. Frequent Winfrey daytime contributor Gayle King will also be in the host seat for “Gayle King Live!” a one-hour daily talk show.
“Oprah’s Final Chapter,” the show Winfrey plans to helm, is a road show that allows Winfrey to talk with guests in their backyard “from the Taj Mahal to … the Great Wall,” a statement released Thursday said.
With so much Winfrey programming there is the threat the network will become oversaturated, which may not be strong in turning younger viewers or men into loyal viewers, Friedman says.
This is in light of her recent ratings, which are not as strong as they were more than 10 years ago, before the media landscape was saturated with so much competing programming on cable and online. For instance, in 1991-92, ratings for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” averaged 12.6 million viewers, double the 6.2 million who collectively tuned in from 2008-09.
Yet the decline may have less to do with Winfrey’s star power than with how viewing habits have changed.
“Her ratings have slipped but everything else has slipped,” Friedman says.