Oprah Winfrey: America's Ultimate Brand: From Television to Publishing, This Media Maven Has Turned Her Name into a $1 Billion Fortune

By Sykes, Tanisha A. | Black Enterprise, July 2005 | Go to article overview

Oprah Winfrey: America's Ultimate Brand: From Television to Publishing, This Media Maven Has Turned Her Name into a $1 Billion Fortune


Sykes, Tanisha A., Black Enterprise


When Oprah Winfrey negotiated a lucrative deal with KingWorld, her show's distributor, she proved that content is king. Winfrey walked away with the rights to produce and host The Oprah Winfrey Show. That was just the beginning for the television pioneer, whom we first covered in a December 1986 article about African Americans in Hollywood.

Winfrey is in the business of building equity in the Oprah brand. She heads an entertainment kingdom composed of publishing and television and film production worth $1 billion, according to Forbes' 2005 list of the richest people in the world. From O, The Oprah Magazine to the Oxygen network, Winfrey's accomplishments lie in sticking to her core competency: challenging millions of viewers to live their best lives.

That strategy has been a resounding success: The Oprah Winfrey Show, the No. 1 talk show for the last 18 seasons, airs in almost every domestic market--reaching some 30 million viewers per week in the U.S. alone--and is distributed in 111 countries.

Determined to own what she knows, Winfrey, 51, set out to build Harpo Inc. (No. 14 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $275 million in sales) into a powerhouse. The company includes Harpo Video; Harpo Productions Inc., which produces the show; Harpo Print L.L.C.; and Harpo Films, the maker of big-screen films such as Beloved and made-for-TV movies through a long-term deal with ABC.

But Winfrey's brawn doesn't stop there. Whenever she recommends a book on her show, it becomes a best seller, and when she brings an expert on the show, the audience responds in kind (Dr. Phil, anyone?). Dick Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, says once Winfrey makes an endorsement sales increase tenfold. …

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