OPRAH ANNOUNCES TWO-YEAR FADE-OUT
A teary-eyed Oprah Winfrey announced today (Friday) that she will end her unrivaled daytime talk show at the end of its 25th season in 2011. She told her audience that "after much prayer and months of careful thought, I've decided that next season, season 25, will be the last season of The Oprah Winfrey Show." At the end of her announcement, she received a standing ovation from her studio audience. Richard Prince, who tracks African Americans' contributions to the media for the Maynard Institute, wrote that the decision "has implications for daytime television, for cable, for the news shows that follow hers, for her home base of Chicago, for Winfrey herself, and for those for whom she is a role model." Although her program is distributed by the syndication wing of CBS, it is aired mostly on ABC-owned and affiliated stations, including New York's WABC-TV, which reportedly pays $270,000 per week to air it, KABC-TV in Los Angeles, which pays about $240,000 per week, and WLS-TV Chicago, which pays about $225,000. The trade journal Broadcasting & Cable commented on its website that the announcement "represents both an end of a lucrative era and perhaps a significant opportunity for affiliates. At a time when stations are keen to own their content--and escape the shackles of pricey syndicated programming--many will use the vacated slot to launch a local program that might be a more thematic lead-in to early evening news." But Bill Lord, manager of WJLA in Washington D.C., told the Washington Post, "The fact of the matter is she's the gold standard for news lead-ins. ... She's a huge force for ratings." While Winfrey has announced plans to launch her own cable network (called OWN, for Oprah Winfrey Network) in 2011, she has indicated that she will not move her current talk show to it. (It's a 50-50 joint venture with Discovery Communications.) Still, noted the Los Angeles Times, "The exit of Winfrey from broadcast TV to cable is yet another sign of the paradigm shift between the two mediums. ... Winfrey is making the decision that she can make more money and build her brand better on cable than broadcast. A few years ago that would have seemed unthinkable, but it is clear that the greater value lies in the broadband medium."
VIVENDI CONTINUES TO HOLD UP GE-COMCAST DEAL FOR NBC
Although the French media company Vivendi had been expected to announce this week whether it would sell its 20-percent stake in NBC Universal to General Electric -- thereby allowing GE and Comcast to form a joint venture to control the entertainment company -- a top Vivendi exec said Thursday that no decision has yet been reached. Speaking to a media and technology conference in Barcelona, Spain, Vivendi CFO Philippe Capron ruled out the possibility of becoming part of the joint venture. "We are not interested in staying on board a new GE-Comcast ownership of NBC Universal, so yes we would exit," he said, according to a report by the Dow Jones wire service. As to when the company would announce a decision, Capron would only say, "We have never been closer to the end of the story. It's in the future, but I can't comment on timing or the likelihood of what will happen." While some analysts expected that Vivendi would be compelled to sell its stake in order to use the proceeds for its recent purchase of a Brazilian telephone company, Capron said, "We are not forced to do anything. We could just say no." Vivendi has a contractual window that closes on December 10 to make its decision. Asked about the matter during an interview on CNBC on Thursday, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said merely that he, too was "incredibly interested" to see what Vivendi will do. "Time will tell," he added.
BUSINESSWEEK MEDIA COLUMNIST HAS LONGER-THAN-EXPECTED TIME OFF
In the wake of the sale of BusinessWeek magazine to Bloomberg LP, it was announced Thursday that the magazine's respected media columnist, Jon Fine, will be among the writers and editors at the magazine being laid off. Fine received the word while on sabbatical, traveling with his wife, Laurel Touby, founder of the online Mediabistro. He tweeted, "Some sabbaticals last longer than others: I will not be returning to BusinessWeek and my column once Bloomberg owns the mag." Also among those being axed is James Leone, head of BusinessWeek's online video group, along with his five-person staff.
GARTH ANCIER QUITS AS HEAD OF BBC WORLDWIDE AMERICA
Garth Ancier, who at 51 boasts one of the longest résumés in show business, has decided to step down as president of BBC Worldwide America, the commercial cable arm of the BBC in the U.S. effective next March. In announcing his departure, BBC Worldwide said in London that during his three-year tenure Ancier was responsible for boosting BBC Worldwide America's profits by 78 percent, launching BBC World News America, and expanding the cable channel's distribution to 65 million homes. A news release quoted Ancier as saying, "We have achieved a great deal over the past three years, but now feels the right time to transition to a new role." Ancier has played numerous roles in the entertainment business, starting out at the age of 21 as manager of east-coast development for NBC, then earning a reputation as an entertainment industry wunderkind when he became president of Fox by age 29. He has also held top posts at NBC, Turner Broadcasting, The WB, and was responsible for launching The Ricki Lake Show, which at one point threatened to topple Oprah Winfrey as TV's top afternoon talk show.
NBC'S BRIAN WILLIAMS PRAISES DAILY SHOW'S JON STEWART
Writing in Newsweek, NBC' anchor Brian Williams suggests that Jon Stewart and The Daily Show have had a profound influence on television news in general and his own newscast in particular. "On occasion, when we've been on the cusp of doing something completely inane on NBC Nightly News, I will gently suggest to my colleagues that we simply courier the tape over to Jon's office, to spare the Daily Show interns the time and trouble of logging our broadcast that night. That usually gets us to rethink the inane segment we were planning on airing," he writes. Williams says that Stewart has added "another step" to the process of producing a newscast: "Being held to account for our faults by a comedy show with a sharp eye and a sharp tongue."