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Oprah Winfrey Takes The Biggest Professional Risk of Her Life

Ph.D. | , Boyce Watkins | 10/1/2010, 8:56 p.m.


CNN.com is reporting on a big move being made by Oprah Winfrey. As she approaches her retirement years, she is finding herself faced with the greatest challenge of her professional life. Oprah, who's been the long-time host of one of the most successful television shows in history, is moving on to form her own network.

The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) is a deal between Oprah and Discovery Communications. The proposition was made by David Zaslov, CEO of Discovery Communications. It was initially structured as a 50-50 partnership in which Discovery would put up $100 million and Oprah would give her time and her name.

As it stands, the Oprah Winfrey show is broadcast in 146 countries. An appearance on Oprah can make a book into a best-seller, and having your face next to Oprah's can turn your own name into gold.

"What Oprah has accomplished on air and off is truly mindboggling," says Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal. "It's hard to imagine that there will ever be anything close to that in media."

The deal with Discovery had to undergo changes because of the recession and almost didn't go through. Zucker originally asked Winfrey to give 35 hours a year of her time on-air, but asked her to increase that number to 70. He also asked her to leave broadcast television completely. In turn, Discovery agreed to add another $89 million to their investment.

According to media reports, Oprah is going to be in complete control of the network. It is set to replace Discovery Health, and will reach 77 million homes starting on New Year's day of 2011. She is working now to develop original programming for the network, in addition to shooting the final episodes of her current show.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy.