Oprah's Australian adventure

300 to get $2.5 mil free ride on federal, NSW gov't

SYDNEY -- If the studio audience’s reaction to Oprah Winfrey’s Monday announcement that she was taking all 300 of them Down Under in December was over the top, it was nothing compared to the media frenzy that whipped around Australia as the country woke to the news Tuesday morning.

Politicians and tourism chiefs, fueled by the local media, have been quick to all stake their claim to being a part of “Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure," with federal tourism minster Martin Ferguson declaring Tuesday that “the publicity that Oprah will bring to Australia around the world is something you couldn't buy."

Winfrey said Monday during the final season premiere of her talk show that she was taking her audience down under for an eight-day seven-night trip around Australia, and will film at least two of her shows here, including one at the Sydney Opera House – redubbed the Oprah House on December 14. The Australia shows will air in the U.S. in January. 
It’s the first, and now likely the only time, that Winfrey has filmed her show outside the U.S. 

The move will put Australia in front of an estimated 40 million TV viewers per week in the U.S. and another 30 million internationally that watch the talk show queen’s eponymously titled show.

Marking her final season on air after 25 years, she said the trip “is really my last chance to do something really big. And if you want to do something big, you would want to take along your ultimate viewers."

"I started to think about where would I most want to go. Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the world … We're going to Australia!” she told her Chicago audience.

For Aussies, however Oprah’s chance to sign off with “something really big" comes at a cost.

The federal government ponied up AUS$1.5 million ($1.35 million), while the New South Wales government will put in $900,000. That’ll pay for an entourage of 450 to travel here –  the 300 audience members and a production crew of 150. Other state agencies including Tourism Queensland and Tourism Victoria, clothing  manufacturer RM Williams, Qantas and Network Ten, the show’s Australian broadcaster, are also partners in the event.

Tourism Australia has been working with Harpo Productions on the idea for the last 12 months. Those involved here are all confident that Winfrey will be able to do what Baz Luhrmann and a local model named Lara Bingle failed to do in the last five years -- bring visitors in their millions down under. 

The United States is the fourth biggest market for international visitors to Sydney, with Americans spending around $500 million per year here. 
Ferguson all but admitted that Tourism Australia’s last two big-budget campaigns, including one created by Luhrmann that ran alongside the global release of his movie “Australia” two years ago, failed miserably. 

"Tourism Australia is finally getting it together. We as a nation will win as a result of this coup," he said.
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