When the Oprah Winfrey Network launches in January, we’ll see whether her star power is enough to carry a whole network — and what it can do for one person in particular whose name we can’t even imagine today. Oprah elevated relative unknowns like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Nate Berkus to stars by featuring them regularly on her syndicated TV show. Now she’s going to pull out the digital stops to find the next person she’ll give a shot a stardom by hosting Your OWN Show, a project announced during the network’s upfront. Anyone interested in being hosts of a show designed for them on OWN can audition online with their own videos or using tools provided by OWN.
It’s the biggest digital effort for OWN yet, says Christina Norman, CEO of the joint venture with Discovery Communications (NSDQ: DISCA). Oprah.com, which is part of the JV, has 8 million uniques and a “super-fan” audience anticipating the new network, she added. “We know we have to tap into them first.” The site bridges The Oprah Winfrey Show, OWN, O Magazine and other endeavors. As an example of how this can all work, OWN started teasing the search launch on the site and on air and will today’s Oprah Fridays Live — featuring return guest Tom Cruise — for the actual launch. It doesn’t get much more high profile than this.
The Your OWN Show star search kicks off with open online auditions. It’s always possible that the winner will come from one of the open casting calls slated for Kohl’s Department Stores in four cities, but by far the biggest action should be online. Contestants will be encouraged to share their 3-minute audition videos through June 26 and campaign for votes through any and all social media sites. The network is providing an editing kit to enhance their videos and tips from will.i.am, Lisa Ling and Peter Walsh, but Norman says “if all you want to do is look in to your webcam and say, ‘pick me’” you can. On the social media side, she explains, “We’re doing it on our own, but enabling the audience to use their social media outlets as well. We are ensuring that people are allowed to take what they make.” But the only place they can vote is Oprah.com.
The field will be narrowed to 10, which is when production kicks in with a “host boot camp.” The five finalists who get the most votes will be flown to LA, where they’ll audition for the show’s producer Mark Burnett. The show is slated to launch with the network in January. There’s always the chance two would-be stars could break through. “In my perfect world, we can