Oprah’s Documentary Club: The Red Carpet for Julia, Forest, Goldie, Gabriel & Mariel

“Oprah’s Documentary Club – Is it a Game-changer?”

We asked that question in our May 12 post, when we examined:

  • OWN’s partnership with ro*co productions to acquire ‘cinematic documentaries that can inspire and entertain’
  • The anticipated license fees, and how they compare with other networks
  • The acquisitions process

And we flagged the potentially huge impact of an Oprah endorsement:

  • According to a 2005 Business Week report on Ms Winfrey’s Book Club, “Publishers estimate that her power to sell a book is anywhere from 20 to 100 times that of any other media personality.”

A New Pipeline

On July 26, OWN announced partnerships with five Hollywood celebrities to produce original, two-hour features for the Documentary Club strand:

  • Julia Roberts: Extraordinary Moms is about real-life inspirational mothers
  • Forest Whitaker: One Last Shot tells the story of a hospice program inside Louisiana’s Angola maximum security prison in which the average prisoner is serving over a 90-year sentence
  • Goldie Hawn:  Searching for Happiness is about positive psychology and our search for a happy life
  • Gabriel Byrne: Tent City explores a community of homeless people in Nashville
  • Mariel Hemingway: Seven Suicides looks at her family’s legacy of suicide and depression

Takeaways

  • The 90+/- minute length of the cinematic documentary has always been a scheduling headache, particularly for ad-supported channels. The two-hour length of these five programs addresses that mismatch up front.
  • A question: Has OWN expanded its ‘cinematic documentary’ target to include programs that blend two formats: the feature doc and the celebrity-driven, inspirational Lifestyle special?

Two More with ro*co

OWN announced two additional acquisitions:

  • Life 2.0: Second Life is a virtual online world of 500,000+/- residents. In Life 2.0 we meet several residents who have been drastically transformed by their new lives in cyberspace.
  • Sons of Perdition: The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound on the Utah/Arizona border is a polygamous community led by prophet Warren Jeffs. In 2003, Jetts excommunicated hundreds of prominent elders, giving their wives and children to other men. Hundreds of teenage boys were exiled to neighboring communities. Sons of Perdition tracks three young exiles who find themselves suddenly penniless and adrift, and searching for meaning in a strange new world—mainstream America. The BBC’s international documentary strand Storyville participated.

That leaves four more commissions or acquisitions for 2011, assuming that the strand remains monthly.

More on OWN’s “Sweet Spot”

  • Here’s the link to our May 5, 2010 post on the emerging ‘Sweet Spot’ for OWN’s production budgets.

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