My news this morning that the daytime diva has decided to give up her syndicated talk show and move it to her namesake cable network OWN in 2011, amid Discovery Communications’ demands that she “move it or lose it”, caught CBS by surprise. The Eye was counting on a 1- or 2-year renewal if The Oprah Winfrey Show which its CBS Television Distribution syndicates. “In all honesty, we have not heard she’s made a decision yet whether to continue,” an insider tells me. “We think we’re still in the talking stages. To our minds, it’s a non-decision.”
CBS had scheduled a face-to-face meeting a month ago with Oprah and her personal and professional posse at her Santa Barbara compound to discuss her plans. But one of the people in the close group of people around her passed away. So it was canceled, I’ve learned.
CBS is quick to point out that, a few years back, Winfrey re-negotiated her distribution deal with CBS TV Distribution so it “gets a lesser fee now”. The result is that, when Oprah stops her syndicated talk show and moves it to OWN (her Oprah Winfrey Network that will replace the Discovery Health Channel), “It will be a hit for us, but not until 2012. And by then the economy should have recovered. And with the lower syndication fee, it’s not as big a hit as it would have been,”a CBS insider tells me.
Besides, CBS has seen Oprah claim time and time again over the years that she’s “retiring” from the syndicated show. But to take Oprah to a nosebleed cable channel even if reaches into 70 million homes? “She has always respected the fact that the pulpit she has now gives her such a huge amount of influence.” And CBS also plans to remind her that, thanks to the syndicated show, “she by far makes more money on TV than anybody else.” Now let’s see how persuasive Les Moonves and his people can be.