Discovery is also in it for “the long term,” said spokesman Leavy, citing the three to five years that other cable channels have needed to develop audience-grabbing hits and firmly establish themselves.
He declined to specify what Discovery has spent so far on the venture, calling media estimates high. But he pointed to long-term advertising contracts with major companies including Procter & Gamble, and hopes of new carriage fees from cable providers that have been airing the channel for free.
Viewership that has been lower than expected, however, has meant “make goods” in ad time for sponsors.
Winfrey, who describes herself as obsessed by ratings for the first time in her career, said she’s giving OWN “everything I’ve got. I’ve spent more energy doing this than anything I’ve ever done in my whole life.”
With good reason. “I walked in today (to OWN’s offices) and felt uplifted to see my name on the door, Oprah Winfrey Network,” she said. “Just to … be able to sit in a room with a team of people presenting you with ideas _ what a gift that is.”
It has also made OWN her ultimate responsibility.
“Every third week, someone new was in charge, and now she’s in charge. From where I sit, this is going to be her success or her failure,” said analyst Carroll.
Winfrey claims to have an unlikely sounding Plan B if the channel falls short.
“If this doesn’t work out, I’m going to go into organic farming in Maui. And I’m not kidding.”
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.