Sony walks the talk for Oprah's 'Oz'


Oprah Winfrey has chosen Sony Pictures TV to distribute her upcoming talk show hosted by heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz. The move means that she will not be expanding her relationship with CBS Television Distribution, which distributes her own daytime talker as well as its spinoffs.

Under the multiyear agreement, SPT will handle all distribution efforts for the show, targeted to launch in fall 2009, in the U.S. and Canada as well as advertiser sales and marketing and also will co-produce "Dr. Oz" with Winfrey's Harpo Prods. The format of the series is still being worked out.

There had been a fierce competition among the distributors over which would nab rights to distribute the show. "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and its two spinoffs — "Dr. Phil" and "Rachael Ray" — are distributed by CBS. But Harpo chose to meet with all the major distributors about the project — including CBS — which is similar to the strategy it took when pitching "Dr. Phil." That talker ultimately was distributed by King World and co-produced by Paramount Domestic Television, which were sister companies under Viacom but have since merged into CBS Television Distribution, now part of CBS Corp.

CBS plans to launch its own medical-themed talk show, the "Dr. Phil" spinoff "The Doctors," in the fall. "Dr. Oz" already is being perceived as a competitor to that show as well as "Phil."

"This will be our focus for fall 2009," SPT president Steve Mosko said. "All of the resources of Sony will be behind this. We think Dr. Oz is a phenomenal talent, and every part of our company will be involved in making sure the show is a huge hit."

Of choosing SPT, Harpo president Tim Bennett said it was "the best-positioned to co-produce and distribute" the show.

It's understood that there will be a clause in the stations' contract that prohibits "Dr. Oz" from airing opposite "Oprah," similar to the way "Dr. Phil" was sold.

Winfrey has been featuring Oz frequently on her show, a strategy similar to the one she employed with Dr. Phil McGraw and Rachael Ray. Oz also hosts a show on the Oprah & Friends channel on XM Satellite Radio.

"This is a show I believe in," Winfrey said. "Judging by the response from our viewers, Dr. Oz has already demonstrated he is a valued and trusted medical expert who has created a deep connection with our audience."

SPT last launched a daytime talk show in 2006 with the short-lived "The Greg Behrendt Show." CBS, meanwhile, also is developing talk shows for fall 2009, including projects hosted by Valerie Bertinelli and Bishop T.D. Jakes. (partialdiff)