Oprah Winfrey Talks OWN Growth, Tyler Perry and ‘Belief’ at Discovery Conference

Oprah Winfrey gave a big plug to OWN’s upcoming seven-night special “Belief” in addressing Wall Streeters as part of Discovery Communications’ investor day presentation on Tuesday.

Winfrey talked up the growth of OWN in the past two years after its rocky start. She noted that the cabler logged its most watched night since its 2011 debut on Sept. 22 with the season finale of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots.” Perry became a partner in OWN with Winfrey in 2012 and has delivered some of the channel’s most successful programs to date.

“Tyler has been such a boon for us,” Winfrey said.

“Belief” bows Oct. 18 will run over consecutive nights. It examines aspects of faith and belief around the world. Before showing a clip, Winfrey noted that she has been working on it for three years and production traveled to 32 countries. She cited “Belief” as the example of the kind of meaningful programming that she envisioned for OWN from the start, and the reason she decided to end her successful syndicated talk show.

“I wanted to have a way to speak to people and be connected and cultivate more meaningful conversations that mattered to people,” she said. After nearly five years, she feels like she has realized “my dream of of having this network and programming created to uplift and to entertain. We have invested in storytelling. We have created a space where our loyal audience can come week after week.”

Upcoming scripted series she cited were “Greenleaf,” a mega-church drama from writer Craig Wright that will feature Winfrey in a recurring role; and “Queen Sugar,” from “Selma” director Ava Duvernay.

Winfrey also referenced OWN’s growing online business of offering seminars and workshops from various “thought leaders” in the health, wellness and spiritual realm. Winfrey said she and Deepak Chopra have guided 4 million participants in meditation exercises.

“The future’s so bright it burns our eyes,” she said. Following Winfrey’s presentation, Discovery CFO Andrew Warren noted that OWN, a joint venture of Winfrey and Discovery, will return $80 million to Discovery this year to help recoup some of the startup financing provided in the early years. To date, OWN has repaid Discovery nearly $150 million.

Winfrey marveled that the channel is approaching its fifth anniversary on Jan. 1. She recalled some good advice she received early on from another TV mogul.

“Lorne Michaels told more over four years ago that it was going to take five years to get up on its feet,” Winfrey said.

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