The losses at Oprah Winfrey’s stumbling cable channel are approaching a staggering $330 million, according to a report over the weekend.
And now industry insiders are predicting the Oprah Winfrey Network will not be able to survive another year if it does not find a hit show and make a dramatic turnaround.
Discovery, which partnered 50-50 with Winfrey to launch the network and has been underwriting its costs, has invested nearly $600 million in it since 2008, according to an extensive report in Businessweek magazine.
But since it started on the air in January 2011, “OWN may have lost as much as $330 million,” the magazine reports.
The magazine quotes one Wall Street media analyst calling the channel the most “successful failure in television today.”
David Zaslav, the chief executive officer of Discovery Communications who talked Oprah into the idea of OWN, is famously impatient with money-losing operations within his company.
He closed a channel Discovery operated with the New York Times in 2008 and just last month killed Planet Green, an eco channel.
“I really can’t see Zaslav losing this kind of money for much longer,” one longtime business associate said last week.
Winfrey appeared before advertisers two weeks ago to, in effect, ask for more time.
“I am in the climb of my life,” she told them. “I am climbing Kilimanjaro.”
Though Winfrey herself has relatively little money invested in the channel, her image as the most successful TV star of her generation is on the line.
E-mails to OWN and Oprah’s production company, Harpo, were not returned yesterday.
I know most of this problem stems from Oprah's inability to clone her own (now off-the-air) show.
But I do wonder if just a few teachers who used to watch Oprah stopped after Oprah's teacher-bashing.
In the end, I have to conclude that Oprah's teacher-bashing didn't cause this, but it sure doesn't help her either.