What Oprah’s Money Moves Means for “Greenleaf”, & “Queen Sugar” Fans
by G. Brown
Another day, another 70 million dollars for Oprah Winfrey who is selling a majority interest in the network she built from the ground up OWN. So exactly what does that mean? Is Oprah out of a job?(insert laugh here)
The deal means Winfrey will give up control of her six-year old cable channel to Discovery Communications which previously had a 50/50 partnership. So instead of owning half of OWN, Discovery will own almost 75% of the network.
It may look like Winfrey is selling out, but actually she’s selling off a lion’s share of her company and maybe saving her own mental well being in the process. OWN had it own share of money problems right from the start–launching in 2011 and by 2012 suffered such massive money hemorrhaging that insiders were predicting the network would be DOA by 2013. With a reported loss at the time of $330 million and low ratings, Oprah acknowledged the trouble but denied failure saying “There’s no such thing as failure: it’s God telling you to move in another direction . . . All these years I’ve been telling people to hang in there, to hold on to their dreams, be steadfast in their vision . . . and I went, ‘Oh, now I get to walk that walk, and not just talk it.'”
The queen of talk had built as much of a reputation as a new aged guru and life coach always telling others how to win at life and here she sat in the very humbling position of losing. The woman who commanded millions of viewers on her daily talk show was barely bringing in 300-thousand viewers a day to her network. It was a low point that drove her to the brink of a nervous breakdown. In a 2013 interview, Winfrey told US Magazine , “I mean, I wasn’t ready to go run naked in the streets. Let’s make that very clear,” The Butler actress added, referencing Russell’s meltdown. “But I had reached a point where I just couldn’t take in anymore stimulation. Ok? That’s what I meant by that.”, ” Winfrey told People Magazine, “After 25 years of being No. 1, I had become accustomed to success,” she says. “I didn’t expect failure. I was tested and I had to dig deep.”
Winfrey dug deep and took a page from some of those life lessons. First she became transparent and admitted in media interviews that her network was in trouble and her mental state was in trouble.Then Winfrey gave OWN a makeover commissioning new shows for the line up and relying on an impressive array of writers, producers and actors–many of whom were also trusted friends like Tyler Perry. The re-direct yielded shows like “Queen Sugar” helmed by Oscar nominated director Ava DuVernay and “Greenleaf”-an original show about the real melodrama behind mega churches. The results: OWN finally came into its own adding on millions of new viewers and earning its highest ratings.
Those programs are expected to remain on the network for a while, as is Oprah who will continue to serve as CEO for the next few years through 2025. But there’s no guarantee that the network which found its strength in African American viewership by offering quality programming will stay the course once Winfrey walks away from day-to-day duties.