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All Eyes on Oprah
In November of 2009, charismatic “talk show queen” Oprah Winfrey, announced her retirement from The Oprah Winfrey Show. This show undeniably launched the celebrity into stardom and has made her one of the most influential women on the planet, gaining the respect and adoration of men and women alike for her ability to deal with a broad range of topics, such as abuse and domestic violence, with a golden touch. Indeed, many individuals find her own victim story compelling, as she herself suffered abuse at an early. Thus, she is looked at not only as an icon, but she has the humble quality in her that makes her a relatable heroine, due, in part, to her early struggles.
The new show will be titled “Oprah’s Next Chapter” and will air on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The cable station is a collaborative effort between Oprah and Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA). OWN will replace the Discovery Health Channel and will be a 24-hour channel focused on the health and well-being of individuals across a vast spectrum. Oprah Winfrey, who is the Chairman of OWN, will also host a talk show to be aired tentatively two to three times a week, although scheduling has not been finalized. The show will take the celebrity across the globe to places such as India and China, and guests will be similar to the ones on her network show, namely, celebrities, politicians, individuals with life-changing tales, etc.
Perhaps one of the most interesting developments will be to see if the “talk show queen” will be able to weave her magic on a cable network. Since The Oprah Winfrey Show debuted on September 8, 1986, viewership has receded from a high of about 12.6 million viewers in the 1990’s, to about 7.2 million today. Still, these ratings are the highest on network television, and are rivaled only by the court show Judge Judy, which is aired daily on CBS (CBS). Apart from the show, Oprah has managed to reach higher peaks of popularity through ventures such as her “Oprah’s Book Club” and “Oprah’s Favorite Things.” Once she endorses a product, sales typically rise materially.
It is her popularity, or loss of her name, that has some of the networks nervous. Walt Disney Co. (DIS), which owns American Broadcasting Company (ABC) is the network that the show is aired on. In addition, CBS Corporation currently has syndication rights to the show. These stations will likely lose a fair amount of revenue through the loss of advertising when Oprah exits. Indeed, many advertisers opt to purchase airtime due to the show’s immense viewership. And her departure may well cause the loss of some advertising revenue for these broadcasters.
Thus far, there have been few that come close to Oprah Winfrey in a popularity contest. Still, networks are already scrambling to replace her time slot with a worthy-enough talent. Some names that have been tossed around are Ellen DeGeneres, whose show airs on NBC, a station that is owned by General Electric (GE) and Tyra Banks, whose show is aired on CBS. However, Oprah’s exit may be signaling a viewership exodus from network television toward cable TV. If this is the case, no matter how popular the host, ratings, as well as revenues, will probably decline.
Oprah’s departure will undoubtedly leave a void in daytime television and other sectors that she holds tremendous power over. Her talk show is universal because her topics reach beyond the boundaries of class, country, race and religion. Her passion for reading and the establishment of her book club have prompted more people to read, and her recommendations and nods of approval typically launch authors to the bestsellers list. Although her decision to end her successful run will bring some uncertainty, her new show, which can potentially reach 70 million homes, promises to empower individuals in the same way. And although her success in unknown waters will be revealed in time, one would hope that she continues to use the influence that she has over others, to encourage them to live life to the fullest.