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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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August 1st, 2013
06:46 PM ET

Oprah's reign returns

Oprah was once regarded as the Midas of media. For two decades, if she touched a product, it usually saw gold.

After she put Anna Karenina on her Book Club list in 2004, sales increased 5,421%.

When Ciao Bella Blood Orange Sorbet made it onto her 2007 "Oprah's Favorites" list, the company's website went from 175,000 hits a week, to 3 million.

In 2008, two University of Maryland economists concluded that the endorsement of then-Senator Barack Obama by Oprah – whom they called a "celebrity of nearly unparalleled popularity" – produced 1,015,559 additional votes for him.

So when Oprah bid a tearful goodbye to her 42 million American talk show viewers two years later, it seemed likely that a good many would follow her, and her favorite things, to her new cable TV network, OWN.

But it turns out OWN – the Oprah Winfrey network – has attracted just a fraction of the ratings Oprah's daytime talk show once had, just one tenth, to be exact.

In fact, it wasn't until this week that OWN announced it is now cash flow positive.

"When she went to OWN, and it didn't look exactly like the talk show everybody knew her for, and loved her for, there was a lot of disappointment there. I think what's been interesting is that in the time since, you've seen her slowly figure out what this network looks like, and what her presence on the network looks like," said Meeta Agrawal, of Entertainment Weekly.

Now, the OWN network can begin repaying the more than $500 million investment the Discovery Channel made in the channel.

Oprah herself has said her team started before they were ready, telling CBS News she could learn from the experience.

"If I knew then what I knew now, I might have made some different choices. I would say if I was writing a book about it, I could call the book '101 Mistakes,'" Oprah on CBS said last April.

But presumably this savvy businesswoman's network is ready, now.

One key to her success was bringing in Tyler Perry, someone with his own larger-than-life brand, and built-in audience.

The man behind 'Madea' has driven the network's profits with two original shows, the highest-rated on OWN.

The news comes at a time of renewed attention to Oprah. On Thursday night she hosts a 200-person fundraiser for Newark Mayor and New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Corey Booker in Jersey City.

And her highly anticipated performance in "The Butler" this summer, has people thinking "O" might stand for Oscar this year.

It's not that Oprah was ever gone. But it appears those those 101 mistakes are now in her rear view mirror and her Midas-ness is back.

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