THR's Women in Entertainment 2011: Power 100
It's been a rough year for the long-reigning queen of daytime television. Since wrapping her daily talk show May 25, a quarter-century after it launched, Winfrey, 57, has been consumed with OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, which she created in association with Discovery Communications. And so far the results have been less than desirable, even after Winfrey personally seized the reins when she named herself CEO and chief creative officer in July. Numerous reruns and shows hosted by friends such as Gayle King and Rosie O'Donnell have failed to catch fire. Indeed, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, which debuted in August to almost half a million viewers, has been dropping steadily since its bow. It averaged only 185,000 viewers in the week ending Nov. 6, according to Nielsen.
Other programming, including the Sarah Ferguson endeavor Finding Sarah and a misguided reality show with Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, flopped. The channel, into which Discovery has poured an estimated quarter-billion dollars, is averaging slightly more than 200,000 viewers a day in primetime -- leaving it ranked No. 53 among basic cable channels.
None of this has been helped by Winfrey's problems finding the right person to help her run OWN, which saw CEO Christina Norman exit in May to be replaced by Peter Liguori on an interim basis -- only for him to announce in early November he'd be leaving by the end of the year. In the midst of this, it's ironic that Winfrey's BFF, King, has seen her own star rise, joining Charlie Rose as a host of CBS' revamped Early Show and therefore exiting her friend's network.
Winfrey's future might now depend on her return to a regular program with Oprah's Next Chapter, scheduled to launch 9 p.m. Jan. 1 with Aerosmith frontman and American Idol judge Steven Tyler as the first guest. Unlike her erstwhile talk show, this one will see Winfrey out of the studio roaming the world, even visiting the likes of Sean Penn as he continues earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti. But that show will likely be weekly or biweekly at best, leaving huge holes of programming to fill. Winfrey no doubt is committed to filling them better, and fast, or she may have the kind of "Aha!" moment she dreads.
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