By Ending Show, Oprah Bets Big on Cable

Move will wound ABC, CBS—and Winfrey?
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2009 7:43 AM CST
Oprah Winfrey poses with David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery Communications, after announcing the formation of OWN in January 2008.   (AP Photo/Harpo Productions Inc., George Burns)
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(Newser) – Oprah's decision to end her network show in 2011 is a risky bet on cable TV that will cost CBS millions of dollars and ABC stations millions of viewers. Oprah will concentrate solely on her long-delayed cable channel, OWN, though it’s not clear how yet. She’s told her staff that she won’t simply move the show, the New York Times reports. More likely, she will appear occasionally on various OWN programs. But will Oprah remain a cultural touchstone on cable?

OWN will replace the Discovery Health Channel, which is seen in 70 million homes—a far cry from network numbers. The networks, for their part, are reeling. Oprah generates major revenue from CBS, which holds the syndication rights, and huge audiences for ABC stations—both for her time slot, and the nightly news after it. “Any show that ABC comes up with to replace her will not draw anything near the ratings guarantee they could count on with Oprah,” says one analyst.