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Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) Expands Media Mogul’s Empire

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This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience. 

As the richest self-made woman in America, there is much to be said about the life and legacy of Oprah Winfrey.

Having been born in rural poverty in Kosciusko, Mississippi, the life path of Oprah Winfrey is truly one from "rags to riches." Winfrey's life is also a modern day Horatio Alger story, one of definite luck and sheer pluck, as her early years with her grandmother and natural oratorical skills eventually molded her into one of America's most popular and beloved figures.

The renaming of AM Chicago, in 1986, to the Oprah Winfrey Show simultaneously placed Oprah’s voice (and image) into the households of millions, while displacing Phil Donahue as the nation's premier day-time talk show host. Differentiating herself from her contemporaries, Winfrey distanced her show from tabloid-oriented material and focused on issues of particular interest to women. Her most popular shows tend to deal with issues pertaining to spirituality, charity and inspiration and Winfrey’s genuine spirit has allowed her to connect with her audience, again and again.

The Oprah Winfrey Show rose to new heights, after Winfrey’s 1993 interview with Michael Jackson. Upon airing, the interview instantly became one of the most watched events in American television history, with an estimated viewing audience of one hundred million.

Celebrating 20 years of production, in 2006, and extending its broadcast run until the 2010-2011 season, the Oprah Winfrey Show, by its close, will have been on the air for twenty-five years. As such, irregardless of one's personal perceptions, Oprah Winfrey, with a quarter of a century of prime-time leadership under her belt, will go down in history as one of America's most dynamic and influential figures.

The legacy of Miss Winfrey does not stop there, however.

On January 15, 2008, Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. With seventy million households within its reach, OWN is set to debut in 2009, with programming designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives.

Oprah Winfrey will serve as OWN’s chairwoman and have total creative control of the network’s future programming. In a statement released on Oprah.com, Winfrey made an interesting disclosure: "Fifteen years ago, I wrote in my journal that one day I would create a television network, as I always felt my show was just the beginning of what the future could hold. For me, the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network is the evolution of the work I've been doing on television all these years and a natural extension of my show." The press release had comments from David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, as well: "There is no stronger voice than Oprah Winfrey in engaging, motivating and connecting people to live healthier lives. Oprah has inspired me personally, and through this new venture, Oprah's talent and drive will have a dedicated multimedia platform to empower, engage and connect with people on-air and on-line."

The development of the Oprah Winfrey Network serves as a sizable addition to Winfrey’s vast Harpo Productions empire, which also includes Oprah & Friends, an XM Satellite Radio station; two magazine publications (O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home); and Harpo Films, a feature film and telefilm production company.

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About Clayton Perry