The deal marks one of the first such agreements struck between Apple and a content creator. Previously, Apple set an overall deal with veteran showrunner Kerry Ehrin. Ehrin will also serve as the showrunner on Apple’s upcoming morning show drama series starring and executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
This is also the latest addition to Winfrey’s media empire. The former hit talk show host formed her own cable network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, in 2011 in partnership with Discovery Communications. The channel has become one of the fastest-growing cable networks among women and has produced hit shows like “Queen Sugar,” which boasts Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay as showrunner.
Winfrey recently extended her contract with Discovery through 2025. Sources tell Variety that Apple’s deal with Winfrey does not conflict with the Discovery agreement. Winfrey remains exclusive in an on-screen capacity to OWN with limited carve-outs, such as her role as a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes” and her recent acting work for HBO.
Via her Harpo Productions banner, Winfrey has also developed several long-running hit syndicated shows including “Dr. Phil,” “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Rachael Ray.” Through her Harpo Films, she has produced several Academy Award-winning features including “Selma,” which was directed by DuVernay. Winfrey also had a featured role in that film, and recently starred in other films like “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”
Winfrey also runs O, The Oprah Magazine and published the New York Times best-selling cookbook “Food, Health and Happiness” last year. As a noted philanthropist, Winfrey has contributed more than $100 million to provide education to academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017.
Even before the Oprah deal, Apple has a robust slate of originals prepared to launch. In addition to the previously mentioned morning show drama, the streamer is prepping shows like a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” a psychological thriller series from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan, the true crime podcast drama series “Are You Sleeping?” starring Octavia Spencer and Aaron Paul, and an Emily Dickinson series starring Hailee Steinfeld among many others.
Companies like Amazon and Netflix have been aggressively pursuing top talent and locking them down with lucrative deals. Perhaps most famously, Netflix signed both Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes to deals valued at over nine figures each.