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“In the world of Oprah, from their perspective, they may feel like this is modest and well-controlled,” said Libby Gill, a former TV marketing executive who’s now a brand strategist. Observers may see it as an overwhelming marketing blitz, Gill said, but most of the outreach is “strategically marketed to Oprah’s core fans.”

She terms the approach “really smart,” one that gives the channel room to grow.

The other key part of the marketing equation is the “where” of OWN, which replaces the Discovery Health channel.

To steer people to OWN, available in about 85 million homes, there’s a “channel finder” at Oprah.com with specific area channel numbers.

“On New Year’s Day, I want you to be pointed in the right direction,” Schillace said.

That’s a daunting mission. The TV forest is crowded with hundreds of cable channels, and OWN’s launching pad isn’t among the most robust: Discovery Health averages around 250,000 daily prime-time viewers, compared with about 3 million for leaders ESPN and USA. (Winfrey’s talk show is averaging more than 6 million viewers this season.)

As OWN unfolds, expect headliners like Shania Twain and Rosie O’Donnell to get more of the promotional spotlight as the channel attempts to steer attention from its namesake to the rest of its 600 hours of original programming.

Winfrey’s name “is on the front door (of OWN), but I need to maintain that buzz and hype to show there’s other things on this network as well,” Schillace said.

Even a channel topped by the formidable likes of Winfrey must respect the basic imperative of TV, said veteran network executive and producer Garth Ancier.

“At the end of the day, I’m very optimistic that Oprah and Peter (Peter Liguori, Discovery Communications‘ COO) can build a stable of shows that will define the network _ and networks are always defined by their shows, not their branding,” Ancier said.

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Toll-free number with channel information: 1-888-9-GET-OWN.

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Online:

http://www.oprah.com/own