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Oprah signing off in 2011?

Winfrey may shift focus to OWN cable network

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

During an ayem conference call on Friday, Discovery CEO David Zaslav said Oprah Winfrey will be ankling her syndie talk show 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, Winfrey’s Harpo Prods.’ spokeswoman Lisa Halliday, 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 spokesperson for CBS Television Distribution, which distribs “Oprah Winfrey,” also was quick to weigh in. The loss of the Winfrey syndie skein would mean a hit of many millions in profit to CBS’ bottom line.

“We are thrilled that ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ will continue production through the 2010 – 2011 season, its 25th year on the air….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. Zaslav reported that the cabler brought in $845 million in revenue, an 11 percent rise from last year. Operating income increased 23% to $311 million, led by growth of its international channels.

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