NEW YORK – Oprah Winfrey’s network has begun not with a bang but with redeclared purpose by the Queen of Daytime for her new round-the-clock cable channel venture.
After years in the planning and months of hype, the moment of launch on Saturday at 9 a.m. PST was rather quiet.
Buried in the middle of a holiday weekend (though boasting the numerically catchy date 1-1-11), the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN for short, arrived free of glitz with a one-hour preview special hosted by Winfrey, host of the syndicated “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She offered a hearty overview of the live-your-best-life fare she will curate across the network’s schedule in the days ahead and further down the line.
The strategy seemed that of a soft opening, aimed at whetting viewers’ appetites so they regularly come back and sample the network’s expanding menu of new shows as they roll out.
“I wanted to take the ideals of great television that we’ve established on the ‘Oprah’ show and bring them to you through a variety of new shows 24/7,” Winfrey said.
This spring, Winfrey ends her wildly successful weekday syndicated show after 25 years. But premiering Saturday night on OWN, “Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season” is a 25-episode reality series that will give viewers an intimate look at “Oprah” as it draws to a close.
In her OWN preview special, Winfrey also touted “Master Class,” a series that will spotlight prominent people who include Diane Sawyer, Simon Cowell, Jay-Z and Condoleezza Rice. The show airs today.
“In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman” provides counseling to couples to help them repair their sex lives. It airs Monday.
On “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” 10 contestants will compete to win a hosting job on an OWN show of his or her own creation. The finalists were chosen from more than 9,500 online audition videos and thousands more hopefuls at open casting calls. “Your OWN Show” premieres Friday.
Initially, the schedule is heavy with sneak previews of series yet to come and multiple repeats of current shows, including Winfrey’s special, for those who missed them the first time.
OWN initially will be available in more than 80 million homes. Originally announced three years ago, the venture’s start date had twice been delayed while its cost ballooned to a reported $189 million.
The Los Angeles-based OWN, a joint venture between Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communication, is replacing the Discovery Health network, which folded as a network on New Year’s Eve.