Corporate Eye

Oprah Winfrey Extends Brand to Her OWN TV Network

Discovery Communications (owner of the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and more) announced on Thursday that a new channel with revolutionary programming, similar to the launch of MTV in the early 1980s,  is coming — OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which will take the place of the Discovery Health Channel. 

According to Oprah’s production company website, Harpo Productions, the new channel is actually part of a multi-media initiative that will also include Oprah’s popular website,, with a mission to: “create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles.”

OWN CEO Christine Norman describes the target demographic for the OWN network, “that broad audience of people who are living their lives with purpose.”  Now, that really is a broad demographic.  We’ll have to wait until the programming schedule is released later this year to determine who this new network is actually for. 

Regardless, this seems like a natural extension for the Oprah Winfrey brand.  She already had success as part owner of Oxygen Media and the Oxygen Network prior to NBC Universal purchasing it in 2007.  The question is whether or not Oprah can retain enough control as brand guardian to ensure the new OWN network remains a positive brand extension. 

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network will benefit from immediate brand awareness and recognition, but does that also limit the potential audience who so closely associates Oprah with her talk show and topics of greater interest to women?  Is that a barrier that can be overcome with time?  What do you think?

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.