What? A station gives up Oprah?
By Steve McClellan -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/4/2002 8:00:00 PM
Here's something that doesn't happen that often—an Oprah Winfrey incumbent is giving up the show this fall. Gannett's WFMY-TV Greensboro, located in Nielsen's Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem, N.C., market (ranked No. 47), opted out of the show at the end of the current broadcast year.
Not only that, but Gannett and King World mutually agreed to tear up the last two years of an existing contract for the top-rated first-run talker.
There was plenty of interest among competitors, and Oprah was quickly picked up by Hearst-Argyle's WXII-TV Winston-Salem. It struck a deal to air the talker through May of 2006, when Oprah now says she will stop doing the program altogether.
Sources familiar with the situation say that Gannett and King World got into a fairly heated battle over money. WFMY-TV, sources say, was paying approximately $1.5 million a year for Winfrey. But the station's ratings decline over the past several years has rendered the high price tag harder and harder to justify.
Gannett reportedly put a lot of pressure on King World to lower the show's price for the remaining two contract years. When Oprah went to WXII-TV, King World settled for significantly less than WFMY-TV would have paid.
Neither King World nor Hearst-Argyle executives would comment on the price. Gannett's only comment was that the matter was handled at the local level. WFMY-TV General Manager Deborah Hooper didn't return calls.
Hank Price, WXII-TV vice president and general manager, says he can't wait to take possession, effective Sept. 2. The station has been promoting the coming switch for a while, and Price says a good chunk of the station's promotion budget—both on and off the air—is earmarked for the show. "We think it's a big opportunity to raise the ratings," says Price. And not just for Oprah. With the talk show leading into its early-evening newscast, Price says WXII-TV has perhaps its best shot ever to topple WFMY-TV in the 5 p.m. news race. That would be a first.
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