Oprah Is on a Roll
Daytime queen reups through 2011
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/8/2004 8:00:00 PM
Not to worry, daytime-TV fans. There won't be a world without Oprah for at least seven more years: The talk-show queen will stick around through 2011.
That's great news for the ABC-owned and other stations that flow The Oprah Winfrey Show's massive audience right into their newscasts. But it's also a plus for Viacom, owner of Oprah distributor King World.
"The thought of taking the show to its 25th anniversary is both exhilarating and challenging," Winfrey says in a statement. "The years ahead will allow me to continue to grow along with my viewers and will give my production company the time and opportunity to use the show as a launching pad to create and develop additional projects and potential future shows."
As part of the renewal, the show will maintain production at 140 episodes—or 28 weeks—per season. For the past two seasons, Oprah has been producing 145 episodes a year (29 weeks).
Oprah is cleared on 212 TV stations covering 100% of the country.
Oprah is such a profitable enterprise that it rivals the cash flow of a small country. Industry estimates place its annual revenues at more than $400 million.
And that doesn't even count the millions that Winfrey's production company, Harpo Production, earns from Oprah spinoff Dr. Phil, another enormously lucrative television venture, or the revenues from her successful women's magazine, O.
Fortune tags her personal fortune at well over $1 billion.
King World takes 15% of the show's $5 million-per-week cash license fees. The syndicator takes another 10%-12% in fees for selling its advertising, insiders estimate. Oprah gets 31/2 national minutes of advertising time in each show at about $75,000 per spot, according to Nielsen estimates. (Stations get 11 minutes in each show.)
While seven years out is a sizable commitment, Winfrey's top lieutenants had signaled it was likely after her last renewal.
"I don't see 2008 as being the final year," Tim Bennett, president of Harpo Productions told B&C in May 2003. Neither he nor King World's Roger King was available for comment last week. "As long as she continues to do what she likes to do and feels like she's doing television that raises the bar," he says, "there is no end in sight."
Since her previous renewal, Winfrey has raised her own bar. Last May, the show hit its highest household rating in a May sweeps since 1997: 7.2. And it had its highest performances among key female demos since May 1999.
Winfrey says her travels to Africa have rejuvenated her. In the past few years, she has built schools in South Africa and distributed gifts to thousands of impoverished and orphaned African children.
"Being with those children filled me in a way that nothing else really has in my life," she told B&C in November. "It's given me my true purpose, my 'true north,' as they say. That can't help but fuel the rest of your life. It gave me a renewed sense of energy, a renewed sense of place and purpose in the world."
And that has given TV stations, King World and Viacom a renewed sense of relief.
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