Discovery Boss Calls Palin ‘Most Compelling,’ Likens Oprah to NFL

Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey (Jemal Countess/Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey (Jemal Countess/Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

She’s a polarizing political force who’s already playing an influential role in the run-up to the midterm elections Nov. 2, but for TLC, Sarah Palin represents a huge marketing opportunity.

Sarah Palin? She is one of the most compelling figures on Earth,” Peter Liguori, COO for Discovery Communications, parent company of TLC and 10 other cable networks, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

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TLC stands to benefit from an association with Palin that’s scheduled to launch less than two weeks after Election Day – Nov. 14 – when the cabler will introduce its new series, ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska.’ Produced by reality-TV titan Mark Burnett, the eight-part series will have Palin taking viewers on a tour of her home state.

“In each episode, Sarah is joined by various family members as she shares the state she knows and loves – from salmon fishing in Bristol Bay to hiking along one of our country’s most breathtaking glaciers,” reads TLC’s own description of the show. Not specified: Whether the former governor will be seen hunting from any helicopters.

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So how will TLC promote the show? Boldly, according to Liguori. “The company has always been very successful [with marketing], but very modest. ‘It’s OK to be noticed,’ is what I have been trying to preach. Indifference is the death of content.”

Citing one example of this approach, Liguori says, “We took [the documentary series] ‘Life’ and made the big, bold move of premiering it across all of our networks and did the biggest [ratings] number in the last 10 years.”

Liguori also talked about the startup of OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network – which is also owned by Discovery. Pay close attention, Oprah fans: The Discovery COO says Oprah will not be working solely behind the scenes. In other words, you will see her on her OWN network, he insisted.

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“Oprah knows her name is on the door,” Liguori said. “In terms of her on-air presence, [Oprah] is going to really be – noticeably – on the network. She will do her next talk show, called ‘Next Chapter,’ which will be on the air three or more days a week. It will be different from her studio show and more intimate for her, more personal. She has done a show, ‘Master Class,’ in which she [picks] political or social or cultural icons who have influenced her and really haven’t had that kind of one-on-one dialogue [to talk about themselves]. She is also opening herself up to her own reality show, which is behind the scenes of her [talk show’s] 25th season. [It’s] an unvarnished look at how that show is produced.”

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The entire TV industry is watching the launch of OWN to see if someone as popular as Oprah can bring her act from broadcast television to cable and still draw broadcast-sized audiences. Naturally, Liguori thinks if anyone can do it, Oprah can.

She is the female equivalent of the NFL,” he said.

So there you have it: Oprah will be seen on-screen when she launches OWN – something none of us have been too certain about, ever since she announced she’ll be shutting down her daily talk show after this season to focus entirely on the new cable venture. Discovery’s COO thinks her fans will dutifully follow her there.

Well, Oprah fans, how about that? Are you ready to follow her to cable? And what of Sarah Palin? Will you watch her play Alaska tour guide on TLC?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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