10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, O. Actually, that is an O, not a zero. Get it? Yep, it's the countdown of the days leading up to the Jan. 1 launch of Oprah's new television network, the aptly named OWN, or Oprah Winfrey Network. Okay, so it's actually, 11 days, but I'm filling in for regular TV Watch columnist Wayne Friedman today, so this is my opportunity to weigh in on the Big 0. And while the launch of OWN may not be news to the kind of TV insiders who read TV Watch, the way the consumer and business press have been treating that countdown is.
In fact, the story currently OWNs the "television" tab on Google News, which this morning had indexed 179 news stories tagged about the network's impending launch. That beats out other "big" TV industry news, as defined by Google's mysterious algorithm, including the second top TV news index of the day: the oh-so-racy video of Ryan Seacrest's girlfriend and "Burlesque" star Julianne Hough that has been leaked (make that virally released) on the Internet. Not much of a story? The next two top Google TV News indexes are a bit more serious, including Logitech's Internet/TV convergence play, and new news circulating around the launch of Google TV, including reports that it will be delayed.
But back to Oprah. I don't cover TV as closely as I once did, but I find it remarkable that in this day and age, at a time when so much is going on -- from the smutty videos of TV celebrity girlfriends to the convergence of TV and the Internet -- that the launch of a new vertical network aimed at women would garner so much attention. (I mean, hasn't this been done before?)
Yeah, I get it, Oprah is a personality cult who elicits attention magnitudes beyond the run-of-the-mill TV celebrity. I remember seeing that firsthand when she took her show national and Madison Avenue insiders flocked her booth at NATPE in the early '80s. Oprah can definitely draw a crowd.
But the build-up to the Jan. 1 launch of OWN is something akin to a mega TV event like Johnny Carson's final episode of the "Tonight" show, or the series finale of "Cheers" or "Seinfeld."
That attention value will surely help generate sampling for the new Comcast network, and look for the press -- especially snarky trade press reporters -- to watch the show's ratings with an eagle eye. And if things keep going the way they have been, it is bound to O-pen big. Just consider some of the larger-than-life, celebrity-infused hype about OWN that has circulated in the past 24-hours, including the fact that Oprah was rejected by bOno, who was offered his own show on OWN. Smart move on her part, because it was the sort of move that was bound to generate attention, no matter which way the U2 frontman/humanitarian hero/Louis Vuitton ad model decided to go. So let me take this opportunity to offer Bono a chance to fill in on TV Watch the next time Wayne takes a holiday.
Ya know, it's not just Oprah's outsized media personality.
Despite the hype about the Internet, the online world remains horribly fragmented and opaque to the vast majority of consumers.
So TV is as vital as ever. The major networks aren't - because viewers have spread more with strong national cable offerings.
Oprah knows. And the media knows. In fact, when you really look at the so-called "online successes", you will find that a great many used online work to bootstrap themselves up to a level where...they got on traditional TV. And traditional TV drives their mass success.
The hard thing is to see through the new media hype to realize what part of that hype is pure bunk.
Since we have no place to go: Is that a reference to some of those who are going to have shows on OWN ? Martha on Hallmark hasn't been so perky.