By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
Forget “no-holds-barred,” this will be a staged cage-match
Lance Armstrong’s face-off with Oprah Winfrey this week (airing Thursday and Friday) promises to be the most calculated comeback since Cheap Trick dusted off the Lycra. And not only for the disgraced cyclist, who’s obviously using the manufactured platform to try to beat the odds facing him, just as doping once did. The sit-down between the two formerly invincible halo brands is clearly synergistic: Winfrey needs the ratings boost, and to reclaim her spot as America’s go-to confessor for lapsed celebrities; Armstrong, shunned by former sponsors including Nike, and by his “Say it ain’t so, Lance” apologists, desperately needs to tap into what’s left of the “Oprah effect.”
There’s an innate conundrum here, of course. Halo brands are conferred on institutions and people (Mayo Clinic; Mother Theresa) with a unique ability to inspire and perceive unimpeachable credibility. Armstrong, for a time, held the world in thrall with his seven Tour de France wins (all now stripped), beating cancer and, in 1997, founding “Livestrong,” his once-venerated, now disgraced charity. Winfrey, meanwhile, inspired the masses “to live your best life” wearing a Livestrong bracelet. That shared ability to uplift transformed both into commercial juggernauts; people bought whatever they were selling.
But now those halos are tarnished, Armstrong’s far more than Oprah’s—a calculus that means he has far more to win, she more to lose. Despite his repeated claims of innocence, he was outed as a liar, manipulator and user by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency last year in a damning, 1,000-page report that accused him of masterminding a long-running, labyrinthine doping scheme. Winfrey’s sway, specifically her hold over the cultural zeitgeist, has also sagged since she stepped down from her daily pulpit in 2011 to run the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Ratings have been poor; the enterprise has been plagued by bad press; the “Oprah effect” never kicked in. There have been no defining moments for which she is famed—Tom Cruise couch-jumping, visiting Michael Jackson in Neverland, Jennifer Hudson forgiving the man who killed members of her family. Now the few people who subscribe to OWN are stuck with interviews like a recent emotional chit-chat with Rihanna who described her former, physically abusive boyfriend Chris Brown as the “love of her life.” (Winfrey didn’t even bother to talk some sense into her.) To top it off, there’s the growing blowback (complete with evidence) that the anointed “experts“ Winfrey unleashed on the world, among them Drs. Phil and Oz, are quacks.
In wrangling Armstrong, Winfrey might have met her nemesis—if only because their fame is derived from the same inspirational, “live-every-day-strong” wellspring. It’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of Winfrey’s 2006 smack down of James Frey for fabricating parts of his memoir. At the time, her lacerating fury was widely celebrated as triggering some sort of national catharsis, a necessarily proactive “truthiness” blood-letting.
This highly anticipated sit-down, however, looks more like a WorldWideWrestling staged cage-match. Billed by OWN as Armstrong’s “first no-holds-barred” interview, it now looks like Winfrey’s been co-opted as the final stop of his week-long Apol-alooza. It was originally scheduled for one night; now allegedly there’s so much material, it has morphed into two 90-minute segments aired over two nights to milk primo ad revenue. Whether they’ll get what they paid for is doubtful. When Winfrey was promoting the show on CBS earlier this week, she coyly hinted that she hadn’t gotten the full goods: “I would say he did not come clean in the manner I had expected,” she said. “It was surprising to me.” Considering that Armstrong was surrounded by lackeys and lawyers choreographing his every move, it would seem entirely predictable.
What Armstrong wants is simple, if not easily obtained. He wants back on his bike to regain his money-making mojo. There’s also a lot to pedal from. He’s facing a mountain of litigation—from his former cycling team, from people who lost libel judgments after daring to suggest he used performance-enhancing drugs. Then there are regulators who want him under oath on the stand. For some reason, they don’t see a chat with the once-Mighty O as the equivalent of a real-world admission. It’ll be fascinating to see how many others agree—and just how transcendent a halo brand can be.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 9:44 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Corus Entertainment Inc. said Tuesday that plans are underway to create educational…
TORONTO – Corus Entertainment Inc. said Tuesday that plans are underway to create educational programming for its Oprah Winfrey channel that would appease federal regulators.
Chief executive John Cassaday told analysts in the broadcaster’s quarterly earnings call that, after meeting with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last month, the broadcaster will create two more hours of educational programming for it schedule.
At issue at the meetings were concerns over whether shows on its Oprah Winfrey Network, also known as OWN Canada, met an educational mandate set for the channel’s broadcast licence.
“At this point we are extremely confident that as a result of the discussions that we had with the CRTC that we will be successful in maintaining our Category A licence,” Cassaday said.
He did not provide any details about the content of the television programs or when they would air.
Category A licences are prized by broadcasters because they mean that all digital cable and satellite providers must carry the signal, which means they reach a large number of Canadians. The licences are limited and rarely granted by the CRTC, but fall under strict content rules.
The OWN channel used to be the Canadian Learning Television channel when its licence was originally granted by the CRTC. The channel was rebranded as VIVA, a women’s entertainment channel and then rebranded again as Oprah Winfrey Network in March 2011 by Corus.
The CRTC has said OWN is required to honour the original licensing agreement and provide formal and informal educational programs that generally focus on adult education.
The regulator has not made its official decision and did not return calls for comment late Tuesday.
The CRTC could insist on changes to OWN programming, request it apply for a different operating licence or, in a worst case scenario, pull its licence, possibly jeopardizing the specialty cable channel’s operation.
Cassaday said he doesn’t think the regulator will need to go to those measures because he believes the content will meet expectations.
“We will intersperse it into our schedule and we will produce it as creatively as is possible,” he said.
On Monday, Corus boosted its dividend by more than six per cent, or six cents a share, to $1.015 for class A shares. The annual dividend for class B shares rises to $1.02, or 8.5 cents a month.
During the first quarter, the company’s net income attributable to shareholders was $52.2 million or 62 cents per diluted share in the three months ended Nov. 30. That was up three per cent from $50.5 million or 61 cents per dilute share in the year-earlier period.
However, consolidated revenues slipped to $226.1 million, down five per cent from $236.9 million the previous year, partly on weaker revenues from its television operations.
Corus shares rose 22 cents to close at $24.45 on Tuesday at the Toronto Stock Exchange.