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Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network launches, replacing Discovery Health

UPI News Service, 01/01/2011 

Oprah Winfrey's next phase of life formally got under way Saturday with the launching of her U.S. cable TV channel OWN.

Winfrey, at 56 the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry and arguably the most powerful person, is giving up her long-running talk show in September. Whether the 7 million people who watch her now will turn to the Oprah Winfrey Network for shows starring other people is still a question, the Detroit Free Press says.

Jennifer Schneider of Commerce, Mich., told the Free Press she is willing to give the network a chance but prefers Winfrey herself.

"Honestly, I'm kind of devastated that her talk show is ending," Schneider said. "I am interested in what the new network has to offer, to see what shows might be similar to her talk show, but I am definitely upset."

OWN has about 85 million potential viewers. The channel replaces the Discovery Health Channel.

Paul Levinson, a communications and media studies professor at Fordham University in New York, believes Winfrey is taking a real gamble, given the fragmentation of the television audience and the turn away to other forms of media. He pointed out that her talk-show audience, while large, is much smaller than the 12 million viewers she had at her height.

"Wherever Oprah is going with the network, because the industry is changing so drastically, she'll probably never have as many viewers as she does right now," Levinson said.

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