NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey's network has begun not with a bang but with re-declared purpose by the Queen of Daytime TV for her new round-the-clock cable channel venture.
After years in the planning and months of hype, the moment of launch on Saturday at noon was rather quiet.
Buried in the middle of a holiday weekend, though boasting the numerically catchy date 1-1-11, The Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN for short, arrived free of glitz with a one-hour preview special hosted by Winfrey. She offered a hearty overview of the live-your-best-life fare she will curate across the network's schedule in the days ahead and further down the line.
The strategy seemed that of a soft opening aimed at whetting viewers' appetites so they regularly come back and sample the network's expanding menu of new shows as they roll out.
“I wanted to take the ideals of great television that we've established on the Oprah show and bring them to you through a variety of new shows 24/7,” Winfrey said. “Every minute of this network has been hand-selected by me for you, the viewers.”
This spring, Winfrey ends her wildly successful weekday syndicated daytime TV talk show, the syndicated The Oprah Winfrey Show, after 25 years. But premiering Saturday night on OWN, Behind the Scenes: The Oprah Show Final Season, is a 25-episode reality series that will give viewers an intimate look at Oprah as it draws to a close.
Initially, the schedule is heavy with sneak previews of series yet to come and multiple repeats of current shows, including Winfrey's specials, for those who missed them the first time.
“There are so many things happening here at OWN, and we're just getting started,” Winfrey, 56, said as her preview drew to an end. “Every day, here's what I'm hoping: that you will find something here to inspire you.”
OWN initially will be available in more than 80 million homes. Originally announced three years ago, the venture's start date was twice delayed while its cost ballooned to a reported $189 million.
The Los Angeles-based OWN, a joint venture between Winfrey's company Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communication, is replacing Discovery Health, which folded as a network on New Year's Eve.
At the stroke of midnight, OWN then began a 12-hour heavy rotation of a 30-minute Countdown to OWN promo that led up to Winfrey's special and her gleeful proclamation that she's “kicking off the next chapter of my life with all of you: Yes, the Oprah Winfrey Network is finally on the air.”