Have Oprah Winfrey and Simon Cowell Lost Their Midas Touch?

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Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey and Simon Cowell -- TV megastars with enough money to carpet their mansions with hundred-dollar bills -- could be looking in the mirror these days and wondering if their magical powers went poof.

Both of these multi-millionaires, who have their hands in more pots than a sous chef, have suffered recent failures in high-profile ventures -- the chat queen, her OWN cable TV network and the brutally honest "American Idol" judge, his over-hyped "The X Factor."

Though even the most successful people do not bat a thousand in all of their ventures, Winfrey and Cowell's enviable success rates have turned them into modern-day King Midases, with the media and fans assuming everything they touch will turn into gold.

OWN a Big LetdOWN

The brand new cable network premiered with a giant thud last January, with so few original programs that many viewers who tuned in hopefully shook their heads in disappointment and never returned.

One of the quirkiest things about the new network was its biggest potential attraction -- Queen Oprah, herself -- initially insisted she would not host her own show. She has since relented and premiered a new show this month called "Oprah's Next Chapter" whose first episode drew 1.1 million viewers. This was the network's second highest rated show ever. The first -- last year's "Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes" -- also featured the talented talker, implying that fans prefer Oprah be on their TV screen to tune in.

What is most surprising is the network's schedule has been far from ground-breaking -- a mishmash of the usual cable shows about brides and hoarders; divorced royals; dysfunctional fathers and daughters; and Rosie O'Donnell, a talk show host retread. What the shows lack is over-the-top conflicts and the bizarre behaviors viewers have come to expect from cable TV.

"There hasn't been any fighting or conflict-things that people usually tune in to see on reality television," a source close to OWN told Fox News. "She (Oprah) had many stipulations on what could and could not be shown. Everything had to be uplifting, and no negative stereotypes."

"The X Factor" Makes Viewers Ask "Why"?

With so many singing, dancing and other talent shows already on the air, one had to wonder if Simon Cowell could really pull off a ratings bonanza with still another sing-off show. So far, it looks like he couldn't.

Part of the problem was poor timing. Before "The X Factor" had a chance to air this past fall, an upstart new show called "The Voice" beat it to the punch with a similar concept of judges also serving as coaches. This made "The X Factor" more of a lookalike show, lacking its own x-factor quality to make it a hit. The show's ratings were disappointing, drawing only half the viewers of Cowell's competitive benchmark, "American Idol," on which he formerly appeared as a judge.

Not averse to conflict, Cowell executed a mass firing this week, canning judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. Some critics say the women were too cold, pointing to the case of a 13-year-old girl who was callously dismissed and had an emotional breakdown on stage.

Ironically, the extreme brutality of "The X Factor" and uber-feel-good approach of OWN could be fun-house reflections of their creators' emotional biases given unbridled reign. It could take the gentle whip of tough-minded advisors to temper their judgments and turn these media moguls into money-making machines again.

More From This Contributor:

Why Oprah and Kirstie Prove Diets Don't Work

Whatever Happened to Last Year's Losers on 'American Idol'?

Sued, Snubbed and Sinking: Is Oprah Losing Her Oomph?

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