Analysis: End of 'Oprah' Means Loss, Opportunity for Stations
Winfrey's decision to leave syndication spells end of lucrative era--and new chance for stations to own local content
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/19/2009 9:30:42 PM
The news that Oprah Winfrey has set an end date for her departure from syndication likely comes as no great surprise for general managers at partner stations.
"I don't think any GM is really shocked by this," says Mark Toney, Senior VP at consultancy SmithGeiger.
Yet it still represents both an end of a lucrative era and perhaps a significant opportunity for affiliates. At a time when stations are keen to own their content--and escape the shackles of pricey syndicated programming--many will use the vacated slot to launch a local program that might be a more thematic lead-in to early evening news. Local news is, of course, a popular option, and some will experiment with a mash-up of news and local lifestyle/entertainment fare.
"It's good news and bad news for stations," says Toney. "It gives stations more control of their inventory and a chance to reinvent themselves in a crucial time period. But it's truly the end of a huge era; there'll be a sense of, ‘Man, we had a great run.'"
While Oprah's ratings have been lagging in several markets, stations can probably expect a bump upon today's announcement, with renewed interest as the show winds toward its September 2011 finale. A limited supply of Oprah is likely to generate considerable viewer demand for the iconic host.
Harpo President Tim Bennett thanked partner stations in a memo today. "We want to thank you for the partnership and friendship we have shared over the years," he wrote. "Your invaluable support has helped us to create the phenomenon of the ‘Oprah Show' that we've all been so proud to be a part of for the last 24 years."
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