By Ryan Velez
Many people were skeptical when Oprah Winfrey decided to try and make her own network when she started up OWN, and even she has called it one of the most difficult endeavors she has ever been a part of. Now, both OWN and Winfrey herself have hit a major milestone, with the LA Times reporting that Discovery Communications is paying $70 million to take a majority interest in the network.
This is a significant change from before, where OWN was a 50-50 joint venture between the television star and the cable programming giant. The deal, announced Monday, increases Discovery’s ownership stake in the basic cable channel by an additional 24.5% to nearly 75%. This marks the first time to date that Winfrey has taken money out of the venture since 2011. However, she still will serve as its chief executive. As part of the deal, she will work exclusively for OWN in the basic cable space through 2025. Right now, she is a special correspondent on 60 Minutes for CBS.
“Creating OWN and seeing it flourish, supported by Discovery and a rapidly growing group of the finest storytellers in film and television, is one of my proudest achievements,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I’m thrilled with the network’s success and excited about this next chapter in our partnership.” Despite early struggles, OWN has managed to become the top-rated network for Black women with programming like Greenleaf and Queen Sugar. Partnerships with Ava DuVernay and Tyler Perry have paid dividends as well.
A majority stake on Discovery’s part allows the network to exert more control and consolidate the channel’s revenue and earnings on its balance sheet.
“This transaction allows Discovery and Oprah to unlock more value from our partnership; extends once more her commitment to the network; and lets us continue our strong work together to nourish OWN viewers with the content they love,” Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav said in a statement.
Discovery is in the process of acquiring Scripps Network Interactive, which owns such female-skewing channels as HGTV and Food Network. The company’s stock is down about 25% this year as Wall Street has soured on cable programming companies, which are most vulnerable to cable cord cutting.