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"Oprah" to cable in 2011 -- here we go again!

Nearly one year to the day after Discovery Communications' top dog said Oprah Winfrey would stop syndicating her talk show in September of 2011 and move it to Discovery's new Oprah Winfrey Network, a blog report saying Oprah will stop syndicating her talk show in September of 2011 and move it to OWN gave The Reporters Who Cover Television the vapors.

"She has not made a decision yet," Winfrey's Harpo Productions said Thursday in a stern e-mail to hyperventilating reporters.

"As she has previously stated, she'll be making an announcement before the end of the year."

That statement is virtually identical to the scolding Harpo issued within hours of Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav's crack about Oprah moving her talkshow to OWN -- a comment he made at his company's first earnings call as a public company back in early November of '08.

Back then Harpo said, patronizingly, that "while David Zaslav's comment are true that Oprah's current contract to produce 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will expire in 2011, she has not made a final decision as to whether she will continue her show in syndication beyond that."

From which we learned Oprah really does not like men to make her announcements for her.

Zaslav's comment came about 10 months after Discovery and Oprah had announced they would create the joint venture cable network called OWN from the ashes of Discovery Health which would reflect Oprah's mantra about "living your best life" -- at which time Oprah noted she might move her talk show to the new channel in 2011.

And on Thursday -- as in November of 2008 -- CBS Television Distribution, which sells Oprah's syndicated talker to TV stations nationwide, issued a statement saying "we love Oprah and if she wants to continue her show we want to continue to be in business with her."

The big difference between then and now is that OWN has blown its 2009 launch date and that there a revolving door of executives has come and gone from the still-unlaunched network.
And, of course, Thursday's report from the blog Deadline Hollywood about "THE END OF 'OPRAH' AS WE KNOW HER," citing unnamed sources.

That story came out the day after the Los Angeles Times reported the still-unlaunched OWN had just hired 15-year Harpo veteran Lisa Erspamer as its new chief creative officer which, the LAT noted, "appears to signal that Winfrey might be close to announcing an official end date for her syndicated talk show."

The same day, Deadline Hollywood's nemesis, The Wrap also reported "one of Oprah Winfrey's most trusted aides is headed west to serve as chief creative officer for OWN -- a move that's raising questions about whether Winfrey is planning to give up her syndicated talkshow."

According to our unnamed sources, Winfrey, Zaslav; former Viacom CEO Tom Freston (who was hired to consult on OWN about a year ago) and OWN's CEO Christina Norman (who formerly headed Viacom's Vh1 and MTV) have been talking long and hard for the past several months about the new network and an announcement will be made before the holidays about the network's lineup and the new launch date. Those suits have been working hard on Oprah to get her to move the show to OWN.

A Discovery rep declined to comment on Thursday's blog report or this report, except to scoff at the blog's line about Zaslav having "demanded that Oprah 'move it or lose it' -- move her talk show to OWN or risk losing the [cable network] altogether."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  November 5, 2009; 6:18 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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