It was always clear that a network without Oprah would have very limited appeal. Oprah has branded her face on every cover of Oprah Magazine, but an Oprah cable channel without her usual daytime TV show would be like Oprah magazine without Oprah on the cover. Which is exactly why Oprah is being pushed to make a choice between staying with CBS and her ABC broadcasts, or actually making her cable channel work.

Giving Oprah her own cable channel was always contingent on her pulling a Howard Stern and taking her viewers over to her channel the hard way. Without that an Oprah cable channel would be nothing more than a third rate competitor to the Lifetime Channel. Of course the problem for Oprah is that leaving network television and her daily perch also risks making her completely irrelevant.

Howard Stern has made a lot of money from his move to Sirius, but he's also vanished into obscurity. Without the conventional radio platform, he preaches to the choir and any pretense to being king of all media has become a joke. By moving to cable, which is more accessible than Sirius, but not as much among her daytime unemployed audience, Oprah risks turning the Queen of All Media down the same path as the King of All Media went. And unlike Howard Stern who at least made his money from Sirius stock, an Oprah channel is not the sure payout that Sirius was.

It may be that Oprah can have her fame or have her channel, but not both.