At long last, Oprah is poised to launch her own television channel, OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), prompting Variety's Brian Lowry to ask, "what exactly is her product?" Oprah's most valuable asset isn't her knack for interviewing celebrities or inspiring audience members, he says. Rather, "her signature power... stems from her ability to create a lucrative commodity: experts." What he calls "the Winfrey factory" has produced know-it-alls who are now celebrated in their own right, from Rachel Ray to Dr. Mehmet Oz to Dr. Phil McGraw — personalities who have gotten their own TV shows and, in some cases, created their own mini media empires. And, "OWN promises more of the same." Here, an excerpt:
Winfrey has been crystal clear about the messianic aspect of her [mission]. As she told Barbara Walters during a recent ABC special ostensibly timed to help launch OWN, "I am seeking the fullest expression of myself as a human being on Earth."
In doing so, Winfrey has forged a bond with her audience that goes well beyond most TV-mediated relationships. Even setbacks involving those she has endorsed — the disclosure that James Frey fabricated his memoir and allegations regarding the personal-improvement movement known as "The Secret" — have done little to diminish her influence.