SPT Wins Oprah’s Dr. Oz Sweepstakes

Sony Pictures Television to Partner with Oprah Winfrey on Production, Distribution of Syndicated Talk Show for Oprah Regular Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2009

Sony Pictures Television is the surprise victor in the long-running lottery to see which syndicator would win the rights to co-produce and distribute Harpo’s latest project, Dr. Oz.

The show will feature Dr. Mehmet Oz, a respected heart surgeon and health expert who has become very well-known through his frequent appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and multiple Discovery Communications programs. He’s also the co-author, along with colleague Dr. Michael Roizen, of the best-selling YOU guides to health.

Like other talent successfully spun off from Oprah -- Dr. Phil McGraw and Rachael Ray -- Oz convinced Winfrey and Co. that he was ready for his own program by achieving high ratings and a strong fan base through his regular stints on Oprah. Beyond that, Oz also participates in XM Satellite Radio’s Oprah & Friends channel.

Unlike Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz will be a co-production of Harpo and SPT and will be distributed by SPT. Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray are each co-produced with CBS Television Distribution, which acquired and incorporated King World Productions, and are distributed by CBSTD.

CBS is also producing The Doctors, a spinoff of Dr. Phil that debuts this fall and a show many consider to be a direct competitor to Dr. Oz. If The Doctors succeeds, most of the CBS-owned TV stations will not have time slots to offer to Dr. Oz.

Nearly every syndicator bid for Dr. Oz, many sources said, but SPT’s lack of a station group was likely to the studio’s advantage. Because SPT is not attached to any particular station group, it can offer Dr. Oz in every market without bias. Observers expect that to result in local bidding wars for the show, which will drive up license fees.

Syndicators that own station groups are likely to put a show that they own on their own stations without offering it to the wider market, which doesn’t necessarily garner the highest fees.

One analyst says the syndication-sales market has been on hold while stations kept their options open so that they could evaluate Oz, considered 2009’s most important syndicated show.

Other shows in development for 2009 include programs featuring Marie Osmond, Valerie Bertinelli, former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and Bishop T.D. Jakes.