Oprah Winfrey fessed up Monday to “101 mistakes” in launching her OWN network and said that in hindsight, she would have prepared differently, including waiting until her own syndicated show was over.
Speaking to her close friend Gayle King on CBS’ “The Early Show,” an unusually candid Winfrey said, “I didn’t think it was going to be easy, but if I knew then what I know now, I might have made different choices.” She said she told Discovery execs from the start, “‘The thing that I’m worried about is who’s going to lead this train because I can’t do it.'” She called starting OWN, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and her Harpo Prods., “like having the wedding before you’re ready.”
The net has struggled financially and creatively since it went live early last year. It recently had to let go of 30 people and canceled a high-profile talkshow hosted by Rosie O’Donnell.
However, a revamp including more of Oprah both on air and behind camera seems to be helping, with first quarter ratings the strongest yet. Winfrey said Monday that despite a rocky start, she’s “never felt better” about OWN than now.
And in a show of faith, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, is increasing the number of subscribers that can get OWN by 3 million to 17 million — giving it total distribution of 83 million. The cabler has also agreed to start paying a fee for the network starting next year, people familiar with the arrangement confirmed Monday.
Winfrey said on CBS that “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels warned her that she’d have plenty of critics. “‘No one wants to see you come off “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” of all those 25 years of success, and step right into the network business. You’ve got to pay your dues.'”