Oprah’s Harpo Films, HBO Strike Development Deal

Harpo leaves broadcast behind in favor of pay cable network
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Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and HBO have inked a multiyear deal to develop and produce scripted programming for the pay cable network.

Potential projects include series, miniseries, movies and documentaries, though executives declined to comment on any current projects.

The deal with HBO also marks the end of Harpo’s development deal with ABC, which expires at the end of the year. ABC was looking to extend the deal, according to Harpo Films president Kate Forte, but Harpo felt that the move to HBO would be a “natural progression” for the production outfit.

“ABC was always incredibly supportive of us, it is much more about the opportunity HBO affords us,” Forte says. “There are natural limitations to network television, including being ratings driven and commercial sponsorships, which obviously HBO does not have to deal with.”

Oprah Winfrey is just the latest household name to sign a deal with HBO, which has been aggressively building its programming portfolio following the conclusion of The Sopranos. Among the talent that have signed deals with HBO are former Sex and The City star Sarah Jessica Parker and funnyman Will Ferrell.

“We generally don’t have a lot of overall deals with producers with whom don’t have current shows,” said HBO programming group president Michael Lombardo. “I can count on half of one hand the number of deals we have.”

Harpo is also collaborating with Discovery Communications on a new cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. That company will be run independently, and with its focus on nonscripted programming is unlikely to affect the HBO deal.

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