By Melissa Grego, Michele Greppi, and Chris Pursell
Rosie O’ Donnell will likely take her first steps toward returning to a solo talk show in the next four to six months.
The contract that the controversial co-host of ABC’s “The View” has with the network stipulates that she must first negotiate with a division of the Walt Disney Co. in good faith if she wants to strike out on her own with a new show, according to people familiar with the contract. Disney owns ABC.
Those same sources said they are confident Ms. O’Donnell will trigger that clause by spring or summer.
Attendees at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference this week in Las Vegas speculated that Ms. O’ Donnell already had a handshake deal with Warner Bros. for a new show. A spokesman for Warner Bros. said there have been no negotiations. A spokesman for Endeavor, which represents Ms. O’Donnell, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Still, if Ms. O’ Donnell does leave “The View” for a show of her own, she has many connections to Warner Bros., suggesting she ultimately might land there. Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Warner’s Telepictures Productions division, executive produced Ms. O’Donnell’s popular 1990s syndicated talk show “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” Ms. O’ Donnell likewise has longstanding ties with Jim Paratore, who was president of Telepictures when the division produced “Rosie,” which Warners also distributed. Mr. Paratore now heads a Warner-based production company, ParaMedia, where he is producing upcoming news magazine “TMZ.”
Disney likely would fight to keep Ms. O’ Donnell should she leave “The View,” according to ABC insiders. Since she joined the daytime roundtable, ratings for the 10-year old show have grown by double-digit percentages and hit all-time highs. In recent weeks, Ms. O’Donnell’s feud with Donald Trump has generated a round of press coverage for the show. The ABC insiders also said the contract with Ms. O’ Donnell protects the network from losing the comedienne easily. An ABC spokesman declined to comment.
Industry executives said a competitor to Disney or Warner could emerge in the pursuit of Ms. O’ Donnell. CBS Television Distribution Group, which comprises the merged King World and CBS Paramount, could step in with an offer.