Disney in no hurry on Oprah decision

Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:20pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co can wait 12 to 15 months before it decides how to fill the gap left by reigning daytime TV queen Oprah Winfrey, who plans to end her talk show in 2011, said Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney.

"Oprah has given us two years' notice, which is not something you generally see in television," Sweeney said at the Reuters Global Media Summit on Monday. "We are certainly in the process right now of reviewing our options."

Sweeney, who is also co-chair of Disney Media Networks and oversees the ABC Television Network, described Winfrey as "one of a kind" but nonetheless said she could foresee a "myriad" of ways to replace the TV star.

"No one expected her to come on the scene 25 years ago," said Sweeney. "So I think it's really going to be interesting to see who comes forward."

Winfrey will end her show to focus on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a cable channel to be launched in partnership with Discovery Communications Inc.

Analysts say Disney and its ABC stations, which carry the show, could lose out financially from Oprah's decision. The show's large audiences have long boosted ratings and advertising for the stations and their local newscasts that follow it.

Sweeney declined to comment on any specific replacements for Winfrey's show, which airs weekdays.

"I think it's going to be really interesting to see who comes forward and who emerges during this time as the next great idea, personality and then the next great piece of programing," she said.   Continued...