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Winfrey Talks Up ‘Belief’ at Discovery Investor Day

Oprah Winfrey stepped on stage at Discovery Investor Day in New York to much fanfare, David Zaslav, Discovery Communications president and CEO, referring to her not only as “the leading TV personality of our generation”, but the “leading curator of what matters”—and the face of the “enormously cash flow positive” OWN network.

Winfrey discussed how the Discovery franchise Planet Earth had inspired her to take on massive projects designed to change people’s perspectives. She likened getting OWN off the ground to “building a nation,” quoting something Lorne Michaels had told her, and said the network is in a very good place after some early travails. “When I look at OWN, I’ve never been more confident about what it means to have a platform created to uplift as well as entertain,” she said.

Winfrey mentioned her own recurring role in an OWN scripted series Greenleaf, about a black megachurch in Memphis, and saved her mightiest promotional pitch for the series Belief, which debuts Oct. 18. She said the code name for the project was “Planet Spirit,” a nod to the Discovery series that so impacted her. “I believe this series will open people’s hearts,” she said. “I hope it gets people to look at their own faith—what they believe, what they don’t believe.”

The television icon also cited the “dynamic slate of storytellers” in the OWN ranks, including Craig Wright of Greenleaf and Ava DuVernay of Queen Sugar.

Zaslav said Belief would receive substantial support from the broad suite of Discovery-owned channels.

Following Winfrey’s five-minute presentation, Andy Warren, Discovery executive VP and CFO, acknowledged his enormous respect for Winfrey—and his misery in having to follow a TV legend on stage. Warren said OWN will generate $60 million in free cash flow this year.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.