What would Oprah do?

Well, it looks like we’re about to find out. At the ripe young age of 55, she’s managed to generate over $3 billion in net worth, give or take. Her brand is a powerhouse. She has the eyeballs and the hearts of millions of people. And she’s about to OWN her OWN network. She’s bringing it “in house” as we say in the biz.

For every action there is a reaction. Looking at the news, a whole bunch of people stand to lose a ton of money when she goes “off the air”. They say “follow the money” if you want the real scoop, so lets take a look.

From Boston.com, “Oprah’s departure could deal the biggest blow to network TV stations around the country that have already been hit hard by declining revenues, a troubled economy, and changes in news delivery. Oprah’s show first aired in Boston in 1986 on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in the mornings until WCVB Channel 5 bought syndication rights to the show a year later. It has aired in the afternoon since.

For more than two decades, Oprah’s 4 p.m. show has delivered legions of viewers to WCVB’s 5 p.m. evening newscast, helping to make it the top-ranked newscast at that hour. In October, for instance, Oprah drew 95,000 viewers to WCVB.

Local affiliates such as WCVB also benefit by sharing advertising revenue with syndicated shows such as Oprah. “We’ve been blessed to have her all these years,” said WCVB president and general manager Bill Fine, who added that it’s too early to speculate about what show might replace Oprah.”

Needless to say, the network folks are kinda bummed. They have been selling the rights to be in front of Oprah’s audience and no longer have the product – Oprah’s show. Do the advertisers simply go away and find another playground? Nope – they follow Oprah. They want her audience. She has effectively just cut out the middleman.

According to Bnet.com, “The real reason Oprah Winfrey is jumping from broadcast to cable TV are profound changes in consumer behavior and digital interactive technology which she will likely put to good use in her next media gig.”

OK, I got it. Oprah will sell more stuff, and will be able to keep more of the money. So what does this mean for the average Joe the Plumber? It means a few things. First, a lot of choices. Whether its the NFL network, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or Oprah – the eyeballs are heading to the destinations. We’re going to start seeing more and more “eyeball owners” take control of their audience, leaving the networks in a competitive landscape like they have never imagined. You think late night TV is competitive today (poor Jay Leno), you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Secondly it means we’ll see some really cool interactive platforms that are personalized. You’re watching Troy Aikman call an NFL game, and an authentic Troy Aikman-signed jersey on E-Bay appears in the lower left-hand corner with a current bid of $25. With one click of your remote you buy it for $27. Or you see a special 2 for 1 deal at Pizza Hut because you clicked the offer a couple nights ago. One click and the pizza shows up 20 minutes later, with the same toppings you always order. Or a birthday reminder pops up on screen with a reminder of an upcoming birthday – with three suggestions from Oprah. You click one of the choices to see a quick infomercial on the product.

Today, we can easily envision Oprah having her own cable channel, with 24-7 Oprah TV. What we might not be able to see, which is coming, is the “blend” of the Internet and TV. Oprah sees the social networking revolution and is particularly poised to pounce on it. Once Oprah can poll her audience in real time and interact with them individually – when they can participate on a personal and emotional level – game over.

Bnet hit the nail on the head, “I’m guessing that in two years, Oprah could put her grassroots popularity and digital tech savvy to work by being the first to integrate interactivity into her programs in a big way. Imagine three-way virtual communications with Oprah, her celebrity guests and her doting audience. She could conduct regular community think-tanks on timely and sensitive topics. Her favorite products give-away at Christmastime could become a virtual e-commerce bonanza.”.

Posted by Chuck Ebbets   @   23 November 2009

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