Is Oprah leaving broadcast TV and syndication for cable and her own network? In a word: Yes.
Broadcasting & Cable Magazine reported Friday afternoon that Winfrey would be doing exactly that in fall 2011.
B&C reported that on a call to analysts Friday, Discovery chief David Zaslav told analysts: “The current expectation is that after fall 2011 her show will go off of … syndication, and she will come to OWN," or Oprah Winfrey Network, the cable channel Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, is creating in conjunction with Discovery.
“We are talking right now about what that presence would be and what programming she would be involved in directly, but this is her chapter two, and building the OWN brand online and on-air is something and she and I are working on together. It is a core mission for her,” Zaslav said.
Oprah's Harpo Productions has gone ballistic consequently, and the B&C website has become overloaded. Harpo, you see, didn't want anyone to know this info right now.
But, I can tell you that a source very close to Oprah told me this exact same thing just a few weeks ago. When we discussed how long Winfrey would go on, and that her contract with King World was ending in 2011, the talk show queen's confidant confided: "Yes, but she won't retire. She'll go right to her own network, to OWN."
Harpo's PR, Lisa Halliday, didn't take my call this afternoon because she's under siege. The spin is that Oprah has decided in the past to stay on the air past the annouced end of her contract. She could do it again. Anything is possible.
But it's likely that she won't be staying on past June 2011 with King World. And this will throw the syndication world into chaos to fill that void. Somewhere right now Tyra Banks is polishing up her tiara and Ellen DeGeneres is doing a dance because that 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. hour in most of the country is prime time real estate.
Oprah, meantime, will go on to make zillions more dollars as her OWN Channel will grow and grow with her on it. And, congrats to B&C's Paige Albiniak for actually listening to that analysts call, and confirming what this column was a little late with after all.
Michael Jackson: He’s still in financial trouble. The result is he may be forced to perform live again even though he doesn’t want to.
Indeed, a deal I wrote about several months ago appears to be alive again. Jackson is said to be on the brink of signing to do that exclusive arrangement at the O2 Arena outside London.
I told you before that AEG Live had offered Jackson a $10 million guarantee against 20 shows at the O2 Arena. Now the ante has been upped, and my sources say AEG is pondering 30 shows for Jacko.
The shows would be the same every night: Jackson performing “Thriller,” recreating its videos and all special effects, from beginning to end. An encore might consist of five or six of Jackson’s other hits.
This deal had been offered to Jackson last spring when he was in danger of losing his Neverland ranch to default. But Colony Capital LLC of California came along and bought Jackson’s debt from Fortress Investments of New York. That deal was helped along by Jackson’s latest confidant, a man identified as Dr. Tomhe, a 59-year-old doctor.
Dr. Tomhe — which rhymes with Dr. Bombay of “Bewitched” fame — apparently persuaded Jackson to take the Colony Capital offer exceeding $23 million. But now comes the tough part: Jackson must pay back that money. According to my sources, Dr. Tomhe is urging Jackson to do the “Thriller” shows to show good faith to his investors.
Right now, Jackson is living quite modestly from what I am told. “He’s in a $10,000 a month property in Las Vegas,” a source said. “He still needs cash badly. This is his way out.”
One thing Jackson won’t do: work with his brothers. Last week, Dr. Tomhe issued a press release on Jackson’s behalf denying that he would tour with the Jackson Five. That statement had been made by Jermaine Jackson, who proved once again that the press is so gullible on this subject they will believe anything he tells them. One of the Jackson brothers usually makes the “family tour” announcement a couple of times a year. And the press just eats it up!
The amazing and legendary Hollywood and New York business and social butterfly Nikki Haskell is being sued by NFL player Jamar Nesbit of the New Orleans Saints.
Nesbit says Nikki’s wildly popular Star Caps pills — which are a mixture of garlic and papaya enzymes — must be loaded with bad stuff since the diuretic Bumetanide was found in his system. This story was picked up without too much examination the other day by several news outlets.
However: ESPN and FOX Sports reported back on Oct. 24 that several NFL players tested positive for Bumetanide, which is used for weight loss. It seems like it may have taken about a week for Nesbit to formulate a cover story. Suddenly Star Caps — used by Hollywood movie stars for 25 years to lose weight but not nutrition — was named as scapegoat.
Haskell isn’t taking this lying down.
“It seems like half the NFL has been using Star Caps,” she told me. “Who knew?”
Knowing Haskell, who’s a fighter, this should be one interesting science test. …
Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden really liked kissing Ed Harris when they played married artists Lee Krassner and Jackson Pollock in Harris’ great film, “Pollock.”
Harden told the Motion Picture Club at its annual luncheon Thursday that he was good. “I never wanted him to yell cut!” she said.
Harris received the club’s Director of the Year Award for his new western, “Appaloosa.”
Other honors went to Amy Adams, Richard Jenkins, Rosemarie DeWitt (who came with “Rachel Getting Married” director Jonathan Demme, screenwriter Jenny Lumet and friend actor Ron Livingston) and Luke Goss.
Blythe Danner introduced Jenkins, noting that the star of “The Visitor” took it like a man when she had to slap him around recently while filming James Keach’s “Waiting for Forever.”
Amy Adams showed off her engagement ring (she’s marrying actor Darren Le Gallo), and was introduced by her “Doubt” director John Patrick Shanley. …
At the luncheon for the MPC, which is a service organization that goes good works, their 96-year-old elder, Max Fried. …
Elvis Costello was a busy guy last night. He launched his Sundance Channel talk show at the Edison Ballroom by joining in with indie pop singer Jenny Lewis on a couple of her songs and one of his. In the audience: separately, Bill Murray and Steve Buscemi.
So who is Jenny Lewis? She’s the lead singer of well known Los Angeles indie band Rilo Kiley whose song “Silver Lining” would have been an enormous hit if there were still a record business.
Ditto her new solo album “Acid Tongue” which is being kept a very closely held secret on the mostly moribund Warner Bros. Records. (Imagine if WB promoted and broke new acts, their stock price would be over $4!)
It doesn’t hurt by the way that Jenny’s voice reminds me a little bit of Aimee Mann filtered through Maria Muldaur.
As for Elvis, he’s on his way to Paris to rehearse for his opera performance with Sting in Steve Nieve’s “Welcome to the Voice” opening Nov. 20. Elvis told me: “They have a word in French for every word in English.” It must be true. …
Add Rilo Kiley and Jenny Lewis to a long list of great contemporary pop you will never hear on your local radio station, including Todd Rundgren’s new “Arena” and new albums by Butch Walker, Ryan Adams, Ben Taylor, Aimee Mann, etc. The whole music industry could be saved if terrestrial radio dropped the teenybop crap they play 24/7 and started playing actual music. …
John Leonard died yesterday at age 69. The culture and TV critic for the CBS Sunday Morning News and New York Magazine had a meteoric career first at the New York Times. He was editor of the Book Review in the mid 1970s, wrote a great column called “Private Lives,” which eventually became a terrific collection for Knopf called “Private Lives in the Imperial City.” (They should reissue it, as it’s out of print.)
To say John will be missed is an understatement. In a short period when Studs Terkel, Tony Hillerman, William Wharton, David Foster Wallace and Michael Crichton have all left us, too, it’s safe to say the world of letters and intellectual curiosity is in big, big trouble. …