Can Oprah OWN the cable airwaves?

Oprah Winfrey is standing before advertisers in New York City today, pitching advertisers on the value of her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) which she launched last year.

Launching an entire network is a monumental feat, and so far Oprah has been no more, and no less successful than many who have attempted such an effort. The three plates Oprah must spin in the air simultaneously to make the network a success: 1). Great content so people will watch 2). Distribution deals to make sure households can watch the network 3). Advertisers to support the financial goals of the network.

All three efforts require expertise, a strong strategy, and patience.

So far, the easiest of the three tasks appears to be with advertisers who believed in Oprah-as-audience-draw from the beginning. Of the other two goals, content has required a lot of re-jigging (remember “Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neils,” and “The Rosie Show”) and distribution is slow (how many of Oprah’s middle-class moms can afford the premium cable package companies have been putting OWN on?).

While Oprah admitted to “101 mistakes” in a recent CBS interview, we believe the swift corrective behavior she has exhibited through show cancellations and staff shifts will help her win out in the end.

Essentially, she needs 1). One big ratings winner of a show 2). Cable operators to give her broader distribution and 3). Advertisers to stick with her.

"This is a network that has some good momentum behind it," OWN President Erik Logan said, previewing his pitch to ad buyers. The channel will stick with the uplifting menu, he said, and will offer up Winfrey's recent interviews plus Saturday night programming such as "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" as shows that reflect her philosophy. "As with any cable start-up, it is going to take time" to build audiences, Logan said.


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