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‘Oprah Winfrey’ future uncertain

Confusion surrounds possible end date

Is there an end date in the future of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”? Depends on whom you ask.

During an ayem conference call Friday, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said Oprah Winfrey will be ankling her syndie talkshow in September 2011 to focus on OWN, the eponymous cable net that Winfrey and Discovery will launch as partners next year.

By early afternoon, however, Lisa Halliday, spokeswoman for Winfrey’s Harpo Prods., clarified that no formal decision has been made about the show’s long-term future.

“While David Zaslav’s comments 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,” Halliday said.

A spokesman for CBS Television Distribution, which distributes “Oprah,” was also quick to weigh in. The loss of Winfrey’s syndie skein would strip many millions in profit from CBS’ bottom line.

“We are thrilled that ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ will continue production through the 2010-11 season, its 25th year on the air,” the CBS TV Distribution spokesman said. “We would certainly welcome and hope that ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ would continue in syndication beyond that, but that is a decision only Ms. Winfrey will be making.”

Zaslav’s statement came as Discovery Communications released its third-quarter earnings.

The cabler brought in $845 million in revenue, up 11% from last year. Operating income increased 23% to $311 million, while net income more than doubled to $211 million from $102 million in ‘07, led by growth at its international channels.

Discovery’s share price, which had been as low as $10.02 after its September IPO, leapt 11% on Friday to $13.34.

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