Winfrey and her team met with potential distributors last month in Chicago, following the same thorough development process Harpo underwent when launching The Oprah Winfrey Show spinoff Dr. Phil in 2002.
Oprah, Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, Oprah’s second spinoff, are all distributed by CBS Television Distribution. In 2000, CBS acquired King World Productions, the original distributor of all three shows, although CBS didn’t absorb King World until 2006.
Winfrey is prepping Oz much like she did Dr. Phil McGraw, with Oz appearing frequently on her No. 1-rated daily talk show. Last month, the telegenic Oz hosted an episode of Oprah almost by himself, with Winfrey posing questions from the audience. Besides his frequent contributions to Oprah, Oz also appears on Winfrey’s “Oprah and Friends” radio channel on XM Satellite Radio.
Oz, 47, is vice chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University and also directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital. His best-selling books include You: The Owners’ Manual, You: On a Diet and You: Staying Young. He’s also one of Discovery Communications’ chief medical consultants, appearing and hosting several Discovery programs, including Second Opinion with Dr. Oz.
Winfrey is rapidly expanding her already-broad media empire. In 2009, Harpo and Discovery will relaunch Discovery Health Channel as OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies. And last month, Harpo announced that it had signed a development deal with Kirstie Alley.