Sunday, 25 March 2012

Can Oprah Save the OWN-tanic?

On April 16, Oprah Winfrey will be bringing her show, Oprah's Lifeclass to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto.

For $435 a ticket, fans will be able to see Lady O, Tony Robbins and a gaggle of other new age thinkers. It will be like the American Idol tour without the music.

Lucky us.

It's all part of a whirlwind tour designed to shore up popularity for her flagging network, OWN, and its Canadian counterpart, OWN Canada.

The place will be packed. It's a certainy.

Oprah is a tremendous draw, personally. But will it be enough to save her network which is hemorrhaging much more than the $300 million originally invested by the Discovery Channel?

The signs are everywhere that OWN is in free fall.

- In spite of good ratings for her recent interview with Whitney Houston's daughter, all other programs are receiving tepid ratings. Even Oprah's Lifeclass, which was launched last fall, has averaged only 318,000 viewers and the webcast has done much worse.

- A flagship show hosted by Rosie O'Donnell was a complete disaster and is being pulled from the air this month. As a result, Oprah has had to lay off many of her loyal employees in Chicago.

- Her efforts to shore up her lineup with celebrity pals has backfired. Recently, Maria Shriver passed on taking on her own show. Even Oprah's gal pal, Gayle King has abandoned ship.

- Oprah fired numerous key executives, then installed herself at Queen Bee. It is now being reported that Discovery has put in place one of its executives as CFO in an effort to save the OWN-Tanic.

- The media knives are out for OWN. In the past week alone, there have been stories in all the major media outlets reporting that the network is on borrowed time. This will be hard to ignore for the few major advertisers who support OWN. With all the other mice bailing, will Nissan be far behind?

The blame for the demise of OWN must rest with Oprah alone. While she is a genius as a broadcaster, she has displayed a neediness that knows no bounds. It was never enough for Oprah to be Queen of Daytime. She had to have her own magazine, her own school, her own plays, her own movies, her own diet and fitness empire. She did her own theme song singing. She even had to have her own president.

With perhaps the exception of her magazine, her other ventures including movies and a musical version of the Color Purple have flopped or faced difficulities.

Her girl's school in South Africa has been her biggest public relations failure because she failed to take into account cultural differences, You just don't take poor black girls away from their families and transplant them into opulent and privileged surroundings and expect everything to come up roses. And you can't be an absentee head mistress and not expect abuse.

It would be too bad for Oprah if she ended her career with the sinking of OWN. She is a talented woman, greatly admired by millions of women. She is a role model for girls everywhere.

Hopefully, Oprah will learn a lesson from OWN.

As she says herself, "if you know better, you do better".

Let's hope she'll learn a little humility.

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