CHICAGO (AFP) – Talk show diva and cultural kingmaker Oprah Winfrey expands her media empire Saturday with the high-stakes launch of her OWN cable network.
While Winfrey's comfy couches have launched scores of careers -- from Dr. Phil to the inventors of her 'favorite things' -- it's unclear if her magic touch can carry an entire network.
|AFP file - Oprah Winfrey pictured in October 2010|
"Oprah has a very powerful brand name, but it's really difficult to get people to change their viewing habits and find a new channel," said Derek Baine, an analyst for industry consultant SNL Kagan.
"Plus, the fact that she'll still be on her syndicated show will probably be confusing to some people."
Discovery Networks is reportedly sinking 189 million dollars into the joint venture, which replaces Discovery Health and will reach nearly 80 million homes.
The programming is intended to "inspire viewers and give them hope," Oprah has often said, and the network is being "built on great intentions."
However, she acknowledged in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal that it may take time to translate the success of a show she'd done 140 times a year into a network which airs 24 hours a day.
"If you're on the outside looking in, of course it looks like a big risk," Winfrey told the paper. "But for me, it's not so much about going wider. It's about going deeper, so that you have a platform that has a deeper impact."
The Oprah Winfrey Network launches at 1600 GMT -- noon on the east coast and 9 am on the west coast -- with an hour-long introduction hosted by Winfrey and a weekend line-up of sneak previews.
Viewers will find shows designed to help them "live the best lives possible and feed their dreams," said Christina Norman, the former MTV president now serving as chief executive officer for OWN.
"We don't want to bring people down," Norman said. "But there will be some grit. It's not all airy, fairy and nice."
The network will offer 600 hours of original fare in its first year along with movies, re-runs of the Dr. Phil show and several shows previously aired on Discovery Health.
Winfrey's devoted fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at the last season of her talk show and a chance to have their questions answered by her "All Stars" - financial expert Suze Orman, health expert Dr. Oz and psychologist Dr. Phil.
The network has also developed: a reality show where contestants compete for their own television show; another where children kidnap their workaholic parents; two cooking shows; a show where families get rid of their clutter and get organized; a talk show about sex; and a series which profiles top names like Diane Sawyer, Jay-Z, Maya Angelou, and Condoleezza Rice.