When Oprah Winfrey launched OWN almost two years ago, she had no idea running a cable network would be so difficult. However, today the media mogul is happy to say that OWN, which once suffered from low ratings and management shake-ups, has had 10 months of consecutive growth.
“I’m not doing the hula yet! There are many hula-hoops still to come. But yes, compared to a year ago, it feels like a sigh of relief and gratitude,” Winfrey said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“I think the expectation — and part of my own expectation — was I had 25 years of success, and I thought people would just leverage that into the network,” she said. “We didn’t account for people not having the channel, not knowing how to find the channel, cable audience being different than broadcast audience, and more competition.”
Winfrey said Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, told her it would take five years for the network to become profitable. “He said, ‘It’s going to take you five years.’ And I told him, ‘Oh I think we’ll be able to do it sooner than that.’ And he goes, ‘Five,'” she said. However, Discovery chief David Zaslav has stated that OWN, which is co-owned by Winfrey and Discovery, is poised to become profitable in late 2013.
The 58-year-old said her first major right decision in turning her network around was “putting myself there and bringing in [OWN presidents] Sheri Salata and Erik Logan. They understood my DNA,” she said.
She also has new partnerships and high-profile celebrity interviews to attribute to the network’s success. She said she’s most proud of “gathering the tribe for Life Class and Iyanla Fix My Life, also running around the country doing these Next Chapter interviews.” She said, “Every interview I do, whether it’s Rihanna, Usher, Daniel Day-Lewis … all of them are life classes.”
As far as her greatest lesson, Winfrey said she’s learned that all success comes with patience, and with patience comes power. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘Understanding the definition of power is really strength times strength times strength.’ Strength over time equals power, and really recognizing that building a network from the ground up is just that. Strength times strength times strength. And it doesn’t happen overnight.”