Harpo says it isn't so

Company denies syndie 'Oprah' to end in 2011

Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Prods. shot down comments by Discovery Communications chief David Zaslav that Winfrey might be ending her talk show's syndicated run in three years.

That disclosure came Friday during a conference call with Discovery to discuss the company's impressive earnings in the third quarter.

Zaslav said Winfrey "opted to stay with ABC through September 2011, and the expectation is that after that, her show will go off of ABC (stations) in syndication and she will come to OWN," the joint venture between Harpo and Discovery that is launching in second-half 2009.

Zaslav added that they are in the process of determining what Winfrey's "presence will be, and what kind of programming she would be involved in directly."

"This is her Chapter 2," he said.

But Harpo said Winfrey has not made any decisions about her show beyond 2010-11, which will mark the top-rated daytime talker's 25th year. Zaslav's comments Friday led to speculation that Winfrey might be considering moving her show to OWN once her current contract expires.

"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," Harpo chief spokeswoman Lisa Halliday said.

A rep for CBS Television Distribution, which distributes "Oprah," said the company is hopeful that Winfrey will decide to extend her contract beyond 2011.

"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," the CBS rep said.

Winfrey most recently extended her contract in 2004 by three years. That pact included an option for Winfrey to bow out after the 2009-10 season, which she recently decided not to exercise.

Winfrey has indicated in the past that she would be ending her talk show at various times, only to change her mind. Both the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons at different points were expected to be her last, but she ultimately re-upped for additional seasons.

Shares of Discovery soared 17% Friday to $14.09 after the company posted earnings of $134 million, up from just $7 million a year ago. Revenue rose 11% to $845 million.

At the beginning of the conference call, Zaslov promised "open and consistent dialogue with our stakeholders as a newly public company."
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