In Depth

Harpo Contradicts Claim That ‘Oprah’ Expected to End in 2011

Harpo Productions is pouring cold water on a claim that Oprah Winfrey is expected to end her syndicated show in September 2011.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav today said his company, which is partnering with Ms. Winfrey to launch the Oprah Winfrey Network on cable next year, expects her to terminate “The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011, when her contract expires, to focus on OWN.

“The expectation is that after that, her show will go off of ABC in syndication and she will come to OWN," Mr. Zaslav said during an earnings conference call. “We’re talking now about what the presence will be and what kind of programming she would be involved in directly. But this is her Chapter 2, and building the OWN brand online and on air is . . . A core mission for her.”

Ms. Winfrey’s representatives said Mr. Zaslav’s expectations may be premature.

"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," said Lisa Halliday, chief spokesperson for Harpo Productions, Inc.

The 2011-12 season would be Ms. Winfrey’s 26th season as host of “Oprah.” Her current contract allowed for an opt-out clause in 2010, but she recommitted to the entire contract in 2004.

The syndicator for "Oprah," CBS Television Distribution, said it is hopeful that Ms. Winfrey will continue her show. That decision, they said, is up to her.

“We are thrilled that 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will continue production through the 2010–2011 season, its 25th year on the air,” CBS Television Distribution said in a statement. “We are grateful to Ms. Winfrey, her producers and all of our affiliates who remain committed to bringing viewers this exceptional series. 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.”

(Editor: Baumann. Updated 12 p.m. to add CBS TV Distribution quote in last paragraph.)