Analysis: End of 'Oprah' Means Loss, Opportunity for Stations - Broadcasting & Cable

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
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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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