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TV titan takes charge of her OWN network

Women's Impact Report 2011: Oprah Winfrey

It’s been quite a learning curve this year for Oprah Winfrey.

It was not until we were on the air that I fully started to grasp what it means to have a network where you are the ‘OW’ of the ‘OWN,’?” Winfrey said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour this summer.

OWN premiered Jan. 1, then suffered an immediate, significant drop in viewers. Critics widely panned the network’s offerings.

Not one to accept defeat, Winfrey took charge. Her first words at TCA were, “I made myself CEO.”

She moved two Harpo Prods. execs, Sheri Salata and Erik Logan, over to OWN, aligning her winning team to her new venture.

Winfrey joked that her friends hoped she was spending her summer relaxing in the Mediterranean or other favorite haunts.

“I’m not. I’m here in the office at OWN listening to budget meetings and marketing meetings and talking about how to strategize and make this network everything we know it can be,” Winfrey says. “So my focus now is getting to know and understand our viewers in such a way that we offer the opportunity for them to have better lives.”

And in true Winfrey fashion, she reached out to her Facebook fans.

“It’s an incredible challenge ahead trying to figure out what kind of shows and programming will resonate with you,” she wrote. “But I feel called to do it … and will be relying on your feedback.”

It’s the magic of Winfrey herself that brings viewers in, not the name on the network. The behind-the-scenes series focusing on her final talk show season drew the most viewers to OWN.

So she’s repackaging her show for the new network. “Oprah’s Lifeclass” takes the 4,561 episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and uses them as a teaching tool.

“I think this will magnify and deepen the potential of that library,” Winfrey says. “(It will be) re-hosted by myself in ways we can teach people how to live their best lives.”

At my core, I’m a teacher, masquerading as a talk show host.”

SNAPSHOT
Title: Founder/CEO, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)
Role models: Barbara Walters, Maya Angelou
Career mantra: “I see myself as a messenger for a message that is greater than myself and the message is: You Can.”
Leisure pursuits: Reading, traveling, her home in Montecito, “my favorite spot in the world.”
Philanthropic passion: Education funding provides “the door to freedom.”

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