Oprah Winfrey’s announced departure today strikes a major blow to broadcast networks that carry her, including WSB-TV here in Atlanta, which has remained a dominant station in this market for decades. Having “Oprah” as a lead into the 5 o’clock news was a great benefit for WSB.
The only good thing is syndicators have two years to come up with something to replace her or provide options for stations such as WSB. If certain talk show agreements on rival networks are up for 2011 (and I’m not sure which are), WSB could steal them away. Dr. Phil and Ellen DeGeneres, the most obvious heir apparents, are on WXIA-TV. But she destroys all other daytime shows in ratings, even though hers have drooped a bit in recent years.
“We’re going to miss her,” said WSB General Manager Bill Hoffman today. “She’s an absolute entertainment TV icon. It will change viewing habits that have been locked in for 25 years. But they’ve been accustomed to being with WSB. It’s great real estate there. I’m sure there’s going to be the best and brightest minds in syndication trying to create the next hit.”
And he put his best face forward: “I like the position we’re in. We’re quite excited. And the best news is we won’t be going up against her.”
He wonders once she goes to cable whether her impact and influence will wane along the lines of Howard Stern once he went to satellite radio. (She does satellite, too, but more as a side project.)
WSB-TV is owned by Cox Enterprises, which also owns ajc.com.