Oprah Winfrey made herself famous on broadcast TV and now she is walking away from the medium. Harpo, her production company, sent a letter to the 214 stations that carry her show saying that "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will air its last program on Sept. 9, 2011. CBS (CBS) syndicates the show, so it will lose a large source of revenue. Many ABC stations air her program, so this will be a blow to them as well.
A number of newspapers and news websites reported that Oprah is well along in creating her own cable channel. She is a billionaire, according to knowledgeable sources, so the risk of moving to cable is one she can afford. The new venture will be called OWN and will be partially owned by Discovery Communications (DISCA).But is it a risk? Cable TV has become much more profitable than broadcast television, especially with the rise of cable news operations like Fox and entertainment channels like A&E. The largest media and entertainment companies have shifted a great deal of their TV effort to cable programming now that most households in the U.S. are served by cable, satellite TV, or fiber optics.
Oprah's move is another nail in the coffin of the medium that dominated the viewership and advertising marketplaces for years. Walter Cronkite and the cast of "Bonanza" would have shed a tear if they were still around.
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.