Talk isn’t cheap for Roseanne

NEW YORK — King World Prods. confirmed Tuesday that it has inked Roseanne to host a syndicated talkshow strip to bow in the fall of 1998.

Roseanne’s signing with King World may parlay her megawatt celebrity into a lucrative payday somewhere between the $30 million a year pocketed by Rosie O’Donnell and the $140 million a year harvested by Oprah Winfrey.

That’s the word from insiders in response to the official announcement, made at a crowded press conference here Tuesday presided over by Roseanne, her manager Jeff Wald, King World chairman Roger King, and company president and CEO Michael King.

A showbiz analyst who attended the news briefing, Chris Dixon of Paine Webber, said that “if the Roseanne talkshow works, she could walk away with $50 million a year.”

“This show will be a partnership between King World and Roseanne,” said Michael King. “She’ll get options on major blocks of King World stock at the market price.” King World and Roseanne will start to put together a production team over the next few months, and the King brothers will begin sounding out TV stations in major markets to sign for the show, which will become available as a Monday-through-Friday daytime hour in September 1998.

Although Roger King says that “I think Oprah will renew” her contract with King World, which now runs through the fall of 1998, the signing of Roseanne is clearly a hedge against the possibility of a decision by Oprah to walk away from her 11-year-old talkshow. Oprah has to tell KW her plans by September 1997.

Wald says that, at least in the beginning, “Roseanne will take a pay cut for doing this show.” Other sources say Roseanne was reaping $650,000 an episode for her primetime sitcom on ABC, which ended its nine-year run on the network May 20. When her accountants add that total to the percentage of syndicated revenues she’ll collect for the “Roseanne” reruns, Roseanne’s salary should hover around $22 million for the 1996-97 season, according to one source.

Various sources say her initial contract with King World is for $8 million a year. But if the show takes off in the Nielsens the way Rosie O’Donnell’s has since it began in firstrun syndication a year ago, the $8 million figure could start looking more like a downpayment.

The revenues from a hit syndicated talkshow rival those of a blockbuster theatrical movie. Analysts say King World could wind up grossing in the neighborhood of $300 million from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” this year, counting license fees from the 235 TV stations that buy it and advertising revenues from the sale of the three minutes an hour held back by KW in each “Oprah” seg.

Roseanne says she’s still bouncing around ideas about the content of the show. “It’s a work-in-progress,” she says. “I want to get exciting celebrities like Barbra Streisand. But I also want to have regular people on the show — sometimes ordinary people turn out to be extraordinary.”

But she doesn’t want to do programs that feature topics like “daughters who dress too sexily, or a mother who turns out to be a stripper. I want to do shows that are meaningful.”

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