Who wins and loses when Oprah Winfrey moves to cable in 2011?
Now that Oprah Winfrey has confirmed rumors that she plans to end her mega-successful syndicated talk show when her contract expires in September 2011, the next question is simple:
Who wins and who loses?
Winfrey herself is expected to announce the move during her live show today, though she isn't expected to say where or whether her program will reappear elsewhere. She's leaving to focus on the cable channel she's been trying to develop from the ashes of Discovery Health Network, known in shorthand as OWN, or the Oprah Winfrey Network.
It means something when one of the most successful TV hosts in history chooses to depart broadcast television for cable. And the woman who launched a thousand books will leave a slew of winners and losers in her wake.
WINNER: Ellen DeGeneres
As longtime blog reader and FlNewsCenter.com webmaster Chris Blanton points out, Winfrey competes against DeGeneres in many markets, including Tampa, because all of Winfrey's syndicated TV kids are prohibited from airing against her. So when Winfrey takes off in 18 months, guess who is best poised to scoop up the viewers who won't watch Judge Judy?
LOSER: News broadcasts, including Tampa's WFLA-Ch. 8
Winfrey's talk show has been a successful lead-in for local news broadcasts -- including WFLA's 5 p.m. broadcast -- for years. Without her massive audience sticking around for news shows, the ratings game in many markets, including Tampa's, could shift significantly. Winfrey's show also appeared on lots of ABC affiliates across the country, which could affect ratings for the network's flagship evening newscast, World News Tonight.
With big mama Winfrey gone, TV stations will need to fill lots of programming holes. And who better to use for holding onto some of Winfrey's massive audience than hosts who already have the Queen of All Media's seal of approval?
LOSER: Syndicated TV industry, especially CBS Television
Already on life support, this industry -- where TV shows are sold individually to each market instead of aired at once on a network -- has just seen its biggest star tell the world her future lies in another playground.
In particular, Winfrey's syndicator -- CBS Television Distribution, once known as King World -- will take a hit. The giant company, which sells everything from Inside Edition to Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, will see the show which is the linchpin of its success go away.
WINNER: The Oprah Winfrey Network
Struggling with a revolving door of executives and pushed back start dates, OWN's biggest problem may have been that it seemed a gigantic side project for its superstar namesake. But when Winfrey's show leaves the air in 18 months, OWN will be the only place in television where you might see her -- which just elevated its status tremendously.
LOSER: Oprah Winfrey?
It is never a good idea to bet against someone as wealthy, savvy and talented as Winfrey. Still, cable TV is by definition a niche medium that reaches a smaller sliver of the audience than the big broadcasters. It hard to imagine how she will retain the influence, audience and income she has enjoyed until now.
Though, if anyone can turn cable TV into a broad megaphone, it's Oprah. And we'll all have great fun watching her try.