November 5, 2009 / 9:45 PM / 9 years ago

No decision yet on Oprah Winfrey move to cable

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey has not yet made a decision on a possible move of her syndicated chat show — one of the TV industry’s biggest money makers — to her new cable network OWN, her production company said on Thursday.

Responding to a report that “The Oprah Winfrey Show” would move from network television to OWN in mid-2011, Winfrey’s production company Harpo Inc. said Winfrey would make an announcement by the end of the year.

“She has not made a decision yet. As she has previously stated, she’ll be making an announcement before the end of the year,” Harpo spokesman Don Halcombe said. OWN declined to comment.

Winfrey is regarded as one of the most influential women in the United States and among the most powerful women in entertainment. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is the top-rated U.S. daytime talk show, averaging 7.1 million viewers this season, according to Nielsen figures.

Hollywood entertainment blogger Nikki Finke wrote in a report on Thursday that Winfrey would end the Chicago-based talk show when her current syndication deal runs out at the end of the 2010-11 TV season, and move it to Los Angeles-based OWN as soon as mid 2011.

Such a move would hit CBS Corp’s CBS Television Distribution arm, which syndicates the show, and Walt Disney Co’s ABC’s owned and operated TV stations which broadcast the popular daytime program.

“We’re obviously in constant conversation with Oprah. She’s a legend and one of the great assets we have,” CBS CEO Les Moonves told reporters in an earnings conference call, adding that CBS was hopeful of keeping her.

CBS said in a statement that nothing had changed. “The decision is Oprah’s to make. As we have stated repeatedly, we love Oprah and if she wants to continue her show then we want to continue to be in business with her.”

ABC said it had no comment.

The launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc, has already been delayed from its original 2009 start date. OWN will be available in more than 70 million homes.

But in an announcement on Wednesday seen as a sign of progress, OWN announced the appointment of Harpo Productions veteran Lisa Erspamer as Chief Creative Officer of OWN. Erspamer will take up her post in January 2010.

Additional reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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