The full picture of the Oprah Winfrey Network is coming into focus now that OWN has unveiled a raft of original programming in the works for its Jan. 1 launch.
Thursday’s announcement of five series, made as part of the Discovery Communications upfront presentation in Gotham, answers the big question of how much face time Winfrey will have on her namesake cabler. She’ll be front and center on at least two regular weekly series, “Oprah’s Next Chapter” and the previously announced “Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season,” and she’s likely to pop up on other shows from time to time.
The new series also indicate that OWN will serve up at least a little popcorn fare like a competish reality shows, including a yakker hosted by longtime Winfrey pal Gayle King and a talent competish dubbed “Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star,” exec produced with “Survivor” and “The Apprentice” guru Mark Burnett.
Winfrey’s emphasis on health, wellness and self-help themes in her comments about her plans for OWN has raised questions about whether such a programming menu would limit the appeal of the channel, which Winfrey is launching in partnership with Discovery. OWN will have strong reach from the get-go as it takes over the Discovery Health channel, which is distribbed in 80 million homes.
“OWN will be the network that is built on great intentions,” Winfrey told advertisers and media buyers during the presentation at Time Warner Center’s Rose Hall. Winfrey received cheers and thunderous applause from the packed house as she delivered the OWN programming presentation by herself, with an assist here and there from talent associated with the shows including Shania Twain and the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am.
“Oprah’s Next Chapter” is described as part travelogue and part interview show, with Winfrey “untethered from the chairs” of her talk show regimen. The show will feature Winfrey’s “riveting conversations” with notable people and her travels to places like the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China.
“Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season” will chronicle the last months of Winfrey’s top-rated syndie yakker as it ends its 25-year run in mid-2011.
“Your Own Show” is billed as a talent competish to find “television’s next big star.” Winfrey, who has a good record of identifying budding talents such as Dr. Phil McGraw and Rachael Ray, will announce more details on her syndie yakker in May. Presumably, Winfrey will have an on-air presence in the show.
“Everybody wants their own show,” Winfrey joked. “My dog groomer — even my Romanian housekeeper said, ‘You know, I give really good cooking tips.’ ”
OWN previously unveiled a batch of programming in February, including the plan for “Behind the Scenes,” bringing the total number of original skeins at launch to 15. OWN also plans to showcase feature films, including docus, and has been steadily picking up rights to pics including “Precious” and the Sundance doc “Family Affair.”
In addition to “Oprah’s Next Chapter” and “Your Own Show,” the skeins unveiled Thursday are:
- “Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind,” offering a look inside the creative process of arts and entertainment notables such as James Cameron, Annie Leibovitz, Tom Ford, Lady Gaga and will.i.am.
- “Gayle King Live,” which puts TV cameras on the daily topical and celeb interview-driven King hosts for the Oprah channel on Sirius Satellite Radio
- “Why Not? With Shania Twain,” a chronicle of the country music star’s effort to rebuild her career after personal setbacks and the end of her 14-year marriage.