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Oprah Winfrey sees 'rocky times' ahead as OWN channel launches

TV mogul Oprah Winfrey says her new network, OWN, is aimed at changing people's lives – but she acknowledges the struggle of keeping audiences interested.

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Oprah Winfrey is interviewed as part of the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday.

Fred Prouser/Reuters

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This has been the week of Oprah.

Her very own cable channel, OWN (for the Oprah Winfrey Network) rolled out on Jan. 1 to generally positive reviews. The 24-hour network invites viewers to walk through the landscape that has been developing in the television mogul’s mind for decades. From interviews with what she calls her all-stars to a reality show offering winners a TV talk show of their very own, this is Oprah turned inside-out – programming that reflects her world view, her vision for the future, and her very sense of purpose, not just in the media universe, but in the grander scheme of life.

She sat down with reporters Thursday evening during the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour, with perhaps an uncharacteristic flinch at being on the other end of the interview couch.

“I’m scared,” she joked, adding, “how does this work?”

But once the questions about her childhood, her life goals, and criteria for the channel began to flow, there was little uncertainty in her voice.

“This has been a revelatory week for me,” she says. Not only have she and her team worked “very hard” to bring this vision to life, but she says she is holding fast to the idea that what is to come will be “even greater.”

The road ahead is not an easy one, she acknowledges – there is a lot of self-help material already out there. "We’re going to have some, you know, perhaps rocky times with the channel, keeping people there and keeping people motivated to continue watching," she says.

The channel debuted with 1 million prime-time viewers – four times the highest number of the Discovery Health Network, the channel that previously occupied her slot. The number has dipped slightly, but OWN executives reportedly are optimistic that the new channel could be profitable within the year. The network – a joint venture with Discovery Networks – reportedly cost some $200 million to launch.

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