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The Oprah Winfrey Network will debut next year inĀ66 million homes, part of a joint venture between the queen of talk TV and Discovery Communications.

Many Americans love "The Oprah Winfrey Show," but are they ready for the Oprah Winfrey Network?

Winfrey and Discovery Communications this week announced plans to launch a new channel -- which will go by the acronym OWN -- in the second half of 2009.

Winfrey will be the creative force behind the channel, developing programming on topics familiar to her viewers, such as dealing with bullying and recovering from divorce. But, at least at first, the channel will enter a cluttered landscape without Winfrey's biggest asset, her top-rated talk show.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" has been sold to TV stations around the country through the 2010-11 television season. Though Discovery hopes she will move the show to the network after that, she's under no obligation to do so. Winfrey said it's "possible" she'll move the show, or perhaps reruns, to OWN and that she'd make a decision this fall.

Still, Winfrey has a huge public following that could make the channel a success even without her talk show.

She has a successful monthly publication -- O, The Oprah Magazine -- co-published with Hearst, which sold an average of 2.4 million copies a month last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Her book club is credited with turning various titles into best-sellers. She also has a radio show, "Oprah & Friends," on .

"This is what I've been coming to since 1988, when I realized this platform is bigger than just a television show," Winfrey says. h2More from MSN Money and The Wall Street Journaldiv class"child c1 first"div class"img"img src"http:moneycentral.msn.comcontentdataimages120DCbetterbanking120.jpg" alt"oprah extends media empire Ā Nick Koudis Photodisc Red Getty Images"imgdivdivdiv class"child c2 last"ul class"linklist16"li class"first"lilililili class"last"uldivdivh2Bigger than a TV show If OWN takes off, and particularly if Winfrey moves her talk show to the new network in a few years, the TV businesses of several major media companies could be hurt.

owns the syndication concern that sells the Oprah show to stations across the country. A successful OWN could also interfere with the efforts of NBC Universal to establish a female-oriented franchise, including through its recent purchase of the Oxygen women's cable network. Executives at CBS and NBC played down the likelihood of possible negative effects down the road.

Likewise, Winfrey's talk show is also a big ratings draw on numerous local stations, including seven of the 10 ABC stations operated by ABC network owner .

Those stations account for more than 25 of Winfrey's national audience, according to her production company. One ABC station not owned by Disney played down the short-term impact of competing with OWN.

"I think it'll probably help more than it'll hurt because it'll continue the exposure of Oprah," said Mike Murphy, the president and general manager of WBMA, the ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Ala. "And anyway, old habits are hard to break." h2Video on MSN Moneydiv class"child c1 first"div class"img"divdiv class"child c2 last"Oprah Winfrey's empire is expanding. The billionaire and Discovery Communications announced a joint venture that will re-brand Discovery Health into The Oprah Winfrey Network.divEven for Winfrey, success isn't guaranteed. New TV networks not only have to compete with the major broadcast networks and hundreds of cable channels but newer video-on-demand offerings and Web video services.

"I think it's increasingly hard to launch or relaunch a TV network regardless of whose name is behind it or who the parent company is," says Brad Adgate, the senior vice president of research at Horizon Media, a media-planning and ad-placement firm. "It's going to be tough to gain traction early on."

Source: articles.moneycentral.msn.com

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Article publication date: 14 Germinal Ray80 (20 Jan 2008)

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