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Oprah Winfrey pacts with HBO

Harpo Films to develop series, films for network

Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films has entered into an exclusive output pact with HBO to develop and produce scripted series, minis, docs and movies for the pay cabler.

Deal comes at the end of Harpo’s exclusive output pact with ABC, an arrangement that produced telepics including last year’s “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day.”

HBO arrangement covers made-for TV programming and not theatrical properties, such as last year’s Harpo-produced “Great Debaters.”

“ABC was always incredibly supportive of us, but there are natural limitations to being on network TV, part of that being ratings and commercial sponsorship,” said Harpo Films prexy Kate Forte. “It just seemed like a natural progression to meet with HBO, especially after the strong message I’ve been getting (from Winfrey) for the last year and a half that a lot of our projects seemed right for HBO.”

Deal with HBO comes as Winfrey is readying the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network, a cable channel she co-owns with Discovery Networks.

Forte said OWN’s programming strategy will not be in line with the kind of content Harpo Films produces.

“Our deal with HBO is for scripted programming,” she said. “OWN is more for nonscripted programming. It’s a totally separate company.”

According to HBO co-prexy Richard Plepler, the pact was made without any specific project in mind.

Plepler did seem to indicate, however, that Harpo’s pact with HBO could be more prolific than the one it had with ABC. In fact, “For One More Day” was the only project to emerge from the company’s Alphabet deal in the past two years.

“I don’t think the number of ideas will be a problem,” he said. “The question will be how can we do everything?”

Michael Lombardo, president of HBO’s programming group and West Coast operations, added: “We generally don’t have a lot of overall deals with producers with whom we don’t have current shows. But when we met Kate and Oprah, it was obvious that this was the right deal to make.”

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