Will Oprah Go Her 'OWN' Way in '11?11/07/2009 2:00 AM Eastern
Rumors of Oprah's departure from broadcast syndication reignited last week after a report that the star was planning to move all her productions to her new cable network, OWN, when her contract expires in 2011.
The report, published by Deadline Hollywood Daily's Nikki Finke, seemed to echo what Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav had said nearly a year ago.
Executives tied to the show issued a round of statements saying nothing has been finalized. OWN is a joint venture of Harpo Productions, Winfrey's production company, and Discovery Communications.
OWN and Harpo both said that Winfrey would make an announcement before the end of the year, as previously stated. “She has not made a decision yet,” a Harpo spokesman said.
Executives at CBS Television Distribution, which distributes the show, said they have no knowledge of any decision. “Nothing has changed. The decision is Oprah's to make. As we have stated repeatedly, we love Oprah and if she wants to continue her show, then we want to continue to be in business with her,” a CTD spokesman said.
This is not the first time CBS Television Distribution execs have dealt with the expectation the talker would jump to OWN. Back in November, Zaslav used Discovery's first-ever earnings call to tell analysts: “The current expectation is that after fall 2011 her show will go off of … syndication, and she will come to OWN.”
If Oprah moves from syndication to OWN, which is currently distributed in 70 million homes as Discovery Health Channel, it should spur OWN's distribution. OWN is currently slated to launch sometime in 2010, and an OWN spokeswoman said that an announcement about that would also be made before the end of the year.
Finke reported that OWN will not launch until 2011. OWN was originally supposed to launch this year, but has struggled to ramp up. Last week, the network announced that Oprah co-executive producer Lisa Erspamer would become OWN's chief creative officer and relocate to Los Angeles.