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King World Productions Scores Deal to Extend 'Oprah' Through Mid-2004

November 02, 2000|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a boost to Viacom and its King World Productions unit, Oprah Winfrey has agreed to a two-year contract that will extend her syndicated daytime talk show at least midway through 2004.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" remains a major cash cow. When CBS, now part of Viacom, agreed to acquire King World in 1999, it was estimated "Oprah" accounted for nearly half of the program distributor's $210 million in cash flow.

CBS President and Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin called "Oprah," which recently began its 15th season, "one of the great programming assets in the history of the business."

Winfrey's own deal is extraordinarily rich. Her current contract, which runs through 2002, guaranteed her $150 million over two years. Precise terms of the new agreement--under which she may also develop new syndicated TV programs in conjunction with King World--were not disclosed.

"Oprah" remains a major asset to Walt Disney Co., whose ABC-owned television stations broadcast the program in several major cities before their local afternoon news, feeding viewers into those broadcasts. Though there has been speculation CBS might want to move the program to its own stations to garner those benefits, King World Chairman Roger King stressed that his division was completely independent and that incumbent stations would be given first crack at renewing the show.

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