Discovery Comm is placing the well being of Discovery Health into the hands of Oprah Winfrey, who will serve as chmn of the net when it rebrands and relaunches in late ’09 as The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN. The popular talk show host has been afforded complete control over net content, seemingly relegating Discovery to the role of “silent partner” in the 50-50 venture (the company will handle distribution). Discovery CEO David Zaslav believes the project aligns perfectly with the company mission he has instilled and continues to nurture. “We are not going after ratings [but rather] staying focused on what our brands can be at their very best,” he said during a Tues conference call, noting “a lot of excitement” about the net among cable operators. With Oprah, Discovery certainly receives a proven and dynamic brand, one right up there with MNF as a major win for cable. “I will be the voice of the network. I will be involved in every single element of programming,” said Winfrey during the call. “This is an evolution of what I do everyday, on a platform that goes on forever.” The venture also includes Oprah.com. Not surprisingly, Oprah’s passionate outreach to her viewers and fans will suffuse OWN’s programming lineup. Included will be “the kinds of shows that make my heart sing, that change people’s view of themselves,” said Winfrey. “It’s about unleashing the power of human potential.” Reruns of Oprah’s long-running TV show are likely down the road, but not until ’10 at the earliest. Most current Discovery Health shows will be scuttled. And don’t think OWN will be much like Oxygen with respect to either thrust or target audience. “The channel did not reflect my voice,” said Winfrey of the net in which she was an initial investor, even serving on its board. But even as OWN will be obviously be reflective of that sonorous speech, Zaslav also believes it will appeal to both sexes. “This channel is not just about women,” he said. No, one woman, and possibly some men.

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