Oprah Discusses Future of OWN
"If this doesn't work out, I'm going to go into organic farming in Maui," the former talk show queen said of her Oprah Winfrey Network's struggles.
Oprah Winfrey's cable venture, OWN, wasn't exactly a ratings hit in its first year.
As The Hollywood Reporter reported, there were executive turnovers, increased pressure to raise carriage fees and over $245 million has been spent funding the venture in the last year.
The media personality is now returning to television in a new show on the network, Oprah's Next Chapter, which debuts on the channel's first anniversary, Jan. 1, in the hopes that it will bring in viewers.
In a new interview with the Associated Press, Winfrey was frank about the struggles she's faced trying to take a successful image and turn it into a network.
"I would absolutely say it is and was not where I want it to be for year one," Winfrey said. "My focus up until (last) May was doing what I do best, which is 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' and giving that my full attention" until its conclusion."
But, she says she's also confused by the attitude that OWN is a failure.
"Somebody was talking to me in that kind of saddened, 'How are you?' tone, and I was thinking, 'I'm fine,'" said Winfrey, adding, "Everybody has told me — Ted Turner has told me, Barry Diller has told me, Lorne Michaels has told me, David Geffen has told me — anybody who's ever worked with a channel, who's ever done anything, has said it takes three to five years," she said, adding, "You have to do the work. ... You do not have to pay attention to the criticism."
So far this year, OWN is averaging just 136,000 viewers per day (Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m.-6 a.m.), a decline of 8 percent compared to predecessor Discovery Health in 2010. Among women 18 to 49, OWN is down 12 percent. In primetime, OWN actually is up slightly among total viewers -- 2 percent, to 258,000 -- and is up 8 percent among women 25 to 54. But OWN is flat among younger women 18 to 49.
"I don't understand what anybody was thinking," she said of the network's original roll-out plan. "You're going on the air, you've got four shows. What do you think you're going to do by Tuesday? Did they think people were going to turn on the channel just because it had my name on it?" she said. "People didn't turn on The Oprah Winfrey Show because my name was on it. It was absolutely topic driven every day," she said.
And, despite being committed to turning OWN into a success, Winfrey says she's got a Plan B.
"If this doesn't work out, I'm going to go into organic farming in Maui. And I'm not kidding."