Oprah Winfrey has been the queen of all media for most of the 23 years she's been on the air. But it looks like she's about to pull a Howard Stern -- packing up her free, over-the-airwaves broadcast and taking it to a more exclusive venue.
According to Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke, Winfrey is days away from announcing her decision to end her syndicated talk show with plans to resurrect the show on cable after the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN. The Oprah Winfrey Show would cease to exist in its current form in mid-2011, when her syndication deal with CBS Corp.'s (CBS) CBS Television Distribution expires.
Stern made a similar move in 2005, jumping from CBS-owned Infinity Broadcasting to Sirius Satellite Radio, which offered him a $500 million contract on the premise that his presence would lead huge numbers of his fans to sign up for its service. Stern is now rumored to be thinking of leaving radio altogether in favor of broadcasting over the Web.)
A spokeswoman for Winfrey's company, Harpo Productions, says Finke's report isn't accurate: "[Winfrey] has not made a decision yet. As she's previously stated, she will be making an announcement before the end of this year."
But Winfrey can't put off the migration much longer if she hopes to make OWN a reality. Originally, the network, formed as a joint venture with Discovery Communications (DISCA), was supposed to go live this year. But the launch has been delayed amid turnover in the new venture's executive ranks.
Finke reports the new target launch date as first-quarter 2011. If that's so, you can be sure The Oprah Winfrey Show will turn up there sooner rather than later.
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