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Christina Norman, Oprah Winfrey, David ZaslavIt was all good just a year ago, as Oprah Winfrey (pictured center), then OWN CEO Christina Norman (pictured left) and David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications (pictured right), popped champagne to celebrate the network that was poised to revolutionize cable television. Fast forward to 2012, Norman is gone, fired over dismal ratings, and the riskiest venture of Winfrey’s career is folding under a staggering $330 million in losses, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

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With insiders predicting that OWN will probably fold in a year, the media magnate faces some tough branding decisions if she wants to keep her “baby” from going under:

The Daily Mail reports:

Though ratings have seen a slight insurgence thanks to interview program “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” it has stumbled since the get go with ratings of just 308,000 daily. It is believed shows which do not feature the chat show queen herself are not popular with viewers.Discovery, which partnered with Winfrey to launch the network and has been underwriting its costs, has invested nearly $600 million in it since 2008, according to an extensive report in Businessweek magazine.

Since it started on the air in January 2011, it may have lost as much as $330million, according to the magazine.

Zaslav, who talked Oprah into the idea of OWN, is famously impatient with money-losing operations within his company and insiders say he will not put up with the ailing network’s losses for much longer.

Winfrey appeared before advertisers two weeks ago to ask for more time, telling them: ‘I am in the climb of my life. I am climbing Kilimanjaro.’

Although she doesn’t risk losing a lot of money from the channel’s failings, Oprah’s reputation is at stake.

Over her 39-year career, The Oprah Winfrey Show had as many as 12.5 million viewers. O, The Oprah Magazine had more than two million subscribers. And her Internet site, Oprah.com, draws more than three million unique visitors a month.

Her image as the most successful TV star of her generation is on the line.

E-mails to OWN and Oprah’s production company, Harpo, were not returned yesterday.

OWN’s reputation for scarce ratings went from bad, to worse, to desperate when she begged the Twittersphere for viewers  in February. In an attempt to compete with the Grammy Awards, Winfrey sent the following tweet to almost 10 million followers:

“Every 1 who can please turn to OWN especially if u have a Nielsen box.”

Winfrey issued an apology for the tweet, saying “I removed the tweet at the request of Nielsen. I intended no harm and apologize for the reference.”

Citing a specific category of violation, titled, “Falsified Reporting or Attempts to Coerce Nielsen Panel Members,” the company issued a statement of it’s own, saying, “In accordance with our policies and procedures, Nielsen is reviewing this incident with out clients…We take any violation of our policy seriously and will work with clients to resolve the situation.”

Maybe Lady O’s issues can be solved with a change in programming; after all, it worked for her in 1994 when she made a conscious decision to separate herself from the “trash pack,” consisting of Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake, Montel Williams and others.

We would say that only time will tell, but time is apparently running out.

Still, regardless of what  happens with OWN, Winfrey will undoubtedly reinvent herself and bounce back. She always has.

Read more at the Daily Mail.

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