Oprah Winfrey is estimated to be worth 2.7 billion dollars.
Her TV show was watched daily by 14 million people in the US.
It’s also broadcast around the world, in 140 other countries.
Her support for Obama delivered a million votes.
She has her own magazine, called O.
This regularly sells 2.5 million copies.
That’s as much as Vogue and Marie Claire put together.
She has her own website called
This averages 70 million page views and 6 million users, a month.
She was on Life Magazine’s list: “One Of The People Who Have Changed The World”.

She is also on Time Magazine’s list “The Most Influential People Of The Century”.
In fact, she is the only person to have been on it 8 times.
So this is someone who’s good at their job, right?
We don’t have people who do things, anymore.
Nowadays we have people who achieve ‘iconic status’.
Because it’s not about product.
It’s only ever about ‘brand’.
Oprah has moved beyond being a person doing a good job.
Oprah is a brand.
And you can put a brand’s name on anything and it will sell.
Because people don’t buy products.
They only buy brands.
It’s the mantra that lets us all go on autopilot.
We don’t have to think anymore.
Brands are everything.
And, in media terms, Oprah is the supreme brand.
That’s what David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery, thought.
He offered Oprah her own TV channel.
It would be called OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
She wouldn’t have to work so hard as she did when doing her show.
Planning, producing, researching, interviewing.
Now she could relax.
She had built the brand.
People would flock to the brand.
And so, Oprah stopped doing her show and the TV station was launched.
Now the TV station is a year and a half old, and the numbers are in.
How successful is it?
Well, it gets just 318,000 viewers during prime time.
That’s just 2% of what Oprah’s TV show was getting.
Oprah Winfrey Network just announced it lost $142 million this year.
They had to sack 30 of their 150 staff, 20% of the workforce.
So went wrong?
Why aren’t millions flocking to ‘the brand’?
Well, Oprah isn’t on the channel as much as she was on her show.
But why should that matter?
The channel is still named after her.
They still have the brand.
And the brand is all-important, right?
Nothing else matters.
Or is it just possible the brand isn’t the be-all and end-all?
Is it just possible the product might have something to do with it?
IMHO the smartest person to come out of this is Oprah herself.
She didn’t put a penny of her own money into the TV channel.
She didn’t have to.
That’s how intoxicated with ‘the brand’ Discovery’s CEO, was.
David Zaslav told Oprah “I don’t want your money. I want you.”
Well, now he has the brand.
But he doesn’t have Oprah’s 14 million viewers.
Is it possible that what people were buying wasn’t just her name, but the product?
The brand argument is very seductive for media people.
People who live only in the world of media.
We believe the whole world lives for media just like we do.
And media can amplify brands.
Consequently, all people ever think about is brands.
But it doesn’t work like that in the real world.

In the real world, products build brands, brands don’t build products.

  • Grilla Login



    Whhh. Whhh. A-Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  

    That’s the tumbleweed blown away. Give me a moment 2 get my breath back…

  • Jeff Kwiatek

    There’s a couple of other differences between Oprah! and OWN. The show was always on broadcast. That’s a large reason why it could ever get an audience so large. The other differences is the time-slot. Oprah ran at a time when other good programs simply didn’t (4 pm). It was watch Oprah or watch some TV Judge. Not the most difficult decision to make.

    Of course Oprah was always the central draw. The product. And now that she’s not there, her audience isn’t either.

  • Grilla Login

    … Dave. I’m still trying 2 catch my breath. 

  • Grilla Login

    The butterfly net ain’t working Dave. It’s 2 porous

  • Grilla Login

    Now trying the fishing rod with banana maggot as bait, method.

  • Dave Trott

    Hi Jeff,
    All those points are definitely true.
    And it helps prove that the current lemming-like belief in brand is not always the answer.

Campaign Jobs