Backstory1/14/2001 07:00:00 PM Eastern
In 1986, talk television's top yacker was Phil Donahue, who managed to corner the market on the genre.
However, the winds of change were blowing out of Chicago.
As reported in BROADCASTING , the 1986 NATPE convention featured one promising newcomer, Oprah Winfrey. At WLS-TV in Chicago, where she was nurtured by then-GM Dennis Swanson (now at WNBC[TV] New York) her hour-long program at 9 a.m. was introducing Phil Donahue. It was time to take her show on the road.
"The response to The Oprah Winfrey Show
was very positive with both regular viewers and people who had never seen the show before," ASI Market Research said in an ad from syndicator King World printed in BROADCASTING . "We feel that Oprah has extremely strong potential to dominate the daytime market in all areas of the country."
Not in that ad were these questions: Would the whole country go for a talk show host who was 1) feisty 2) overweight and 3) black? Those may seem like irrelevant questions today, but they weren't in 1986. That September, The Oprah Winfrey Show
went into syndication under King World Enterprises and hit big. Winfrey went on to become one of the richest women in show business and syndication's brightest star.