"It seems the kind of spectacular reality show that OWN needs is one that seems to be outside the definition of what OWN will accept," he said.
OWN can find a middle ground, countered Discovery spokesman David Leavy.
"There's a lot of white space between 'Jersey Shore' and 'Housewives.' Good programming doesn't need to be as salacious as that," he said, citing "Undercover Boss" as an example.
Let Oprah be Oprah, said one viewer, Charles W. Rawls III, a Winfrey admirer — and a realist.
"I want programming that will share what she stands for. But that may not be what the masses want and advertisers are willing to pay for," said Rawls, a marketing manager in Philadelphia.
For a successful woman, one who thinks and lives big, Winfrey has entered new territory.
The overhaul announced this week, including the layoffs of 30 staffers intended to reduce redundancies between Discovery and its partner in OWN, Winfrey's Harpo Inc., brought Neal Kirsch, chief financial officer of Discovery's U.S. networks, to OWN as chief operating officer and CFO.
(OWN launched with a 150-person staff double that of the typical cable channel, another invitation to trim.)
In January, Discovery Fit & Health executive Rita Mullen was brought in on an interim basis to work on programming and development after the departure of Lisa Erspamer from OWN.
Their work is cut out for them.
Discovery's annual report filed in February said there will be "significant additional funding to OWN" that will exceed its earnings over the next two years. That will mean adding to the $312 million Discovery has given the venture so far, the report said. Discovery CEO David Zaslav told analysts he expects the channel to become a "significant asset," and cited growth in revenue streams, including advertising.
Discovery owns 50 percent of OWN but Winfrey, through Harpo, holds operational rights over programming, marketing and decision-making authority for key management positions, according to Discovery's filing. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, and every two-and-half years after, Harpo can require Discovery to "purchase all or part of its interest in OWN," the filing said.
"Ultimately, it's Oprah's network. A lot of the policy decisions are with her," said analyst Brad Adgate of media consultants Horizon Media Inc.
Winfrey's real contribution will come in front of the camera, not from behind a desk, suggested analyst Carroll.
"She is what viewers are asking for. If she's there, they're there. If she isn't, they're not," he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/lynnelber
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