In her first appearance since her Chicago-based show ended in May, Oprah told an SRO crowd at the National Cable & Telecommunications conclave at McCormick Place, Oprah said that the 300 Harpo staffers remaining at the Chicago studio will continue to produce content for her OWN cable network.
Interviewed Thursday morning by Paula Zahn, the host of Discovery Investigation network, Oprah said staff producers will work on “feverishly repackaging” the 4,078 shows in her syndicated library, to air this fall on OWN.
Harpo Studios has laid off 50 people since the downsizing of the 400-member staff began in late May. Another 50 had transferred earlier to OWN’s L.A. headquarters to get the shows ready for the launch.
“Patience is not a virtue of mine,” Oprah said in talking about how quickly OWN got up and running and how it has struggled for an audience since its January debut when initial high ratings melted and it failed to reach expectations while programming costs soared.
Discovery chief David Zaslav, who introduced Oprah at the show, had told her at the outset she had to be “all in, with both feet and a full heart,” she recalled. “And if you choose not to be all in we will both go our separate ways and wish you well, and I had to think about that.”
But if she had to do it differently, “I would have birthed my baby one evening at a time. But now I’m all in,” Oprah said. She admitted that she had been so focused on closing out her 25-year show that she lacked the energy to concentrate on the network kickoff.
But now, she said, her intention is to grow the network and continue to promote her mission of encouraging viewers to “live your best life” and to provide content that serves the audience in that regard.
In that context, OWN is supposed to be about inspiring and motivating viewers, she said, creating a space which allows communication and connection with viewers and leaving them with more information and a pathway to a better life.
As predicted, Oprah will launch her OWN interview show, Oprah’s Next Chapter next January. She said O.J. Simpson is one of her “dream” guests. “I have a dream of O.J. Simpson confessing to me. Am I going to make that happen, people?