Oprah Winfrey, who has reined as the queen of talk since 1986, apparently
isn't ready to give up her crown.
Sources said Winfrey is "on the verge" of signing a contract with the seven
ABC-owned stations to renew The Oprah Winfrey Show for two more years,
keeping her on at least through the 2007-08 season.
Should that happen, the landscape of syndication will shift dramatically,
leaving Paramount's Dr. Phil as Oprah's heir apparent for at least two
more years and keeping him out of key news lead-in slots.
As part of the deal, Phil is still expected to be forbidden to compete
directly with Oprah.
The move also means other syndicators can cool their heels with regard to
developing Oprah replacement talent.
Buena Vista Television's Wayne Brady will likely stay at 10 a.m. on the ABC-owned
stations, instead of having the opportunity to move into the coveted 4 p.m.
slot, which charges more for license fees and advertising.
Oprah is a huge revenue-driver for King World Productions, with sources estimating
that the show brings in $300 million annually for the syndicator, including
license fees and barter revenue.