Everybody who is anybody who existed anywhere near popular culture over the past 30 years knows the name of Oprah Winfrey. Whether it’s a passing recollection of her as a talk show host who liked to shower attendees with fancy gifts or as an actress or as the woman whose program you never missed, Oprah Winfrey is a media juggernaut. Now, after decades in the spotlight, Winfrey has settled on a philosophy for producing content that she wants to share with the world via her cable network OWN. And she's keeping it mostly positive.
In an interview with Variety, Winfrey said:
I am intentionally trying to create programming that lets people see the best of themselves. Sometimes you show them the worst of themselves in order to see the best of themselves. It’s not that I won’t do anything that’s negative, but I won’t do anything that’s negative that doesn’t have a deeper meaning.
Winfrey’s determination to find worth and even positivity in the most negative subjects is part of what has made her so successful in her years as an entertainer. Discerning and shrewd in her interviews, her positive spins allowed her messages to reach a more receptive audience.
Much of her audience over the past 30 years accumulated thanks to her wildly popular talk show. The Oprah Winfrey Show ran for two and a half decades and allowed Winfrey to lead and engage audiences in discourse. After launching her own cable network in 2011, Winfrey had to learn to adapt to sharing by showing rather than telling things directly to an audience.
Her cable network OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network, that is – was not an immediate success, even despite Winfrey’s loyal audience from her talk show. Viewers did not respond as well to constant feel-good entertainment as they did to her single program. Nevertheless, Winfrey incorporated scripted shows into OWN's programming as well as making more regular appearances herself to help boost ratings and allow her to get her message of positivity and meaningful negativity out on a platform over which she has executive control.
Of course, Oprah Winfrey has been occupied with more than just managing her network. She has been appearing in front of and behind cameras on the big screen more and more often, as she's able to pick and choose projects that appeal to her and her philosophy. She’s tackled everything from race to faith to coming-of-age.
Despite her name on the network and her role in production, Winfrey is not the only reason for the cable success for OWN. Tyler Perry's scripted shows largely deserve the credit for adding variety to the programming, and her co-presidents in Erik Logan and Sheri Salata help keep the day-to-day business running at OWN. In the four years that OWN has been on the air, it has grown into a finely-tuned machine, spreading Oprah Winfrey’s message and philosophy to an ever-growing audience.