Oprah Spreads Her Wings On Cable

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Oprah Winfrey is busting out all over cable.

 First, Discovery hands her the programming keys to her OWN digital cable channel that will launch next year.

Then, earlier this week, Home Box Office gives her creative control over several scripted movies, series and limited series as part of a three-year development deal through Winfrey’s Harpo Films division.

Winfrey’s scripted programming dance with HBO won’t necessarily step on any toes in her non-scripted content-based tango with David Zaslav and Discovery Communications. But, at least at first blush, the HBO move does seem to tap dance on Discovery’s OWN brand.

Discovery positioned the OWN service as the exclusive cable destination for everything Oprah. Now the billionaire talk show host will extend her enormous media reach not only over OWN but also over cable’s biggest pay-TV service. That means millions of HBO dollars to create quality documentaries, movies and limited series with the enviable Oprah seal of approval.

For Winfrey, the deal is a smart, strategic feather in her massive multi-media portfolio. 

For Discovery, it means they no longer have the cable exclusive on the Oprah brand. Still, Discovery officials say they’re not concerned that a handful of scripted projects Oprah and HBO will produce will tarnish its feel-good Oprah channel.  

“Having Oprah and her brand 24/7, 365 as a real standalone destination will be completely different from a Harpo-produced film from HBO,” said Discovery Communications executive vice president of corporate affairs and global communications David C. Leavy. “For people looking for the Oprah-inspired message, there’s only one place for that.”

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