When Oprah Winfrey had a talk show on ABC, she could do no wrong. The queen of afternoon television hosted Hollywood’s biggest stars. She famously gave away Pontiacs to her studio audience in 2004. “Everybody gets a car!” she shouted, jumping up and down. “Everybody gets a car!”
Winfrey has had less reason to celebrate since she ventured into the fragmented universe of cable television, launching the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. According to Horizon Media, a New York ad agency, OWN attracts an average of 250,000 viewers in prime time. That’s a pittance compared with the 12.6 million viewers who watched her afternoon talk show during its final season on ABC.
This has led to predictable retrenchment at OWN, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and Harpo Productions, Winfrey’s production company. Last week, it canceled The Rosie O’Donnell Show after a mere five months. Yesterday, it announced it was trimming 30 jobs. “It’s difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives,” a humbled Winfrey said in the statement. “The economics of a start-up cable network just don’t work with the cost structure that was in place.”