Can Oprah save OWN? Can OWN save Oprah?
New York magazine this morning tackled these two questions this morning, and the answers are surprising grim. To read the full story, go here - and this is certainly worth a few minutes.
But the takeaway is fairly pessimistic. NY Magazine's Robert Kolker was smart to pick up on the various signs that suggest this enterprise is/ was/fully remains troubled.
The basic takeaway is this: The Discovery Channel, which is joint-venturing with Oprah on this network project, badly wants her to assume a big on-air role (or simply, bring her show over). O remains insistent that she won't and that in fact she wants little
to no on-air presence.
Here's an important graph, citing Christina Norman's (she is chief executive of OWN) plans for programming.
Earlier this year, Christina Norman appeared to be scrambling to assure ad buyers that OWN really is an Oprah channel. She announced Master Class, profile pieces about "the most extraordinary people of our time selected by Oprah herself (without, necessarily, Oprah herself being onscreen). There is also Behind the Scenes: Oprah’s 25th Season, a weekly chronicle of Oprah’s long good-bye from broadcast television. (That move is reminiscent of Oxygen, which ran Oprah After the Show, a program that aired scraps from the table of the original Oprah.) The most Norman could tell a trade publication about Oprah’s role on OWN earlier this month was, "Clearly, the beauty of having your own network is that it can be the place where her next big idea is going to be seen. We’re working with her now on what that is, what the format will be, what she does and doesn’t want to do, what she hasn’t done before and how she can she really have a big presence on the network."
When you read this, you're left with the sense - beyond that fact that these shows sound unwatchable - that Oprah will be a Wizard- of-Oz-like presence: All-seeing, all-powerful, working the levers frantically behind the screen, while refusing to step out from behind the curtain to see and be seen.
It all seems like a very dire situation, especially if you're TDC simply because (analogy time!) one does not secure the services of a Cy Young Award winner simply so he can sit on the bench and calls the pitches out to whomever is on the mound...