Watch: Play the "Oprah or Noprah" Game!
Oprah Winfrey had the wildly successful talk show. No-last-name-necessary recognition. A production company, Harpo, that was her name in reverse. The magazine known simply as O.
What else to do but take over an entire channel and call it the Oprah Winfrey Network?
So that is exactly what she did.
But despite her legion of fans, her show's 47 Daytime Emmy Awards and her eye for promising TV personalities who would go on to their own talk show empires, not to mention Winfrey's signature confidence in the ability to manifest what you want if you put in the work with the universe—there was no guarantee that OWN was going to be a success.
And for awhile after its launch exactly 10 years ago, it wasn't, despite its sparkling pedigree.
"My vision for OWN is to create a network that inspires our viewers and makes them want to be who they are on their best day," Winfrey stated in August 2010 as her team announced that, though the syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show would be signing off after 25 years in May 2011, the "Queen of All Media" herself would be taking her interviewing talents to OWN with shows such as Oprah's Next Chapter and Master Class.
She would even be making entertainment out of her discerning eye with a show called Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star.
A lot of name branding, a lot of Oprah onscreen, a lot of money pouring into the endeavor, the most successful daytime talk show ever for cross-promotion? What else does a network need?!
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What OWN needed, as it turned out, was time.
It took about two years to find its footing, with Oprah taking over as CEO and COO seven months after the launch. And it wasn't until October 2011, following the premiere of the reality series Welcome to Sweetie Pie's, that they realized they should lean into programming for Black viewers, that—while they had been banking initially on Winfrey's universal appeal—the historically underserved audience would find OWN if it put in the work to get their attention.
"Anytime you have a program that pops like Sweetie Pie's did, you start looking at what drove it," OWN president Erik Logan told Adweek after the show about the St. Louis family behind an expanding soul food restaurant business earned the network's biggest ratings yet. "And we saw that the African-American audience really had a connection with that show…We're going to look at ways to nurture and grow that."