NEW YORK — After a 15-year relationship with ABC, Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films announced Tuesday that it has chosen not to renew its deal with the broadcast network to partner with HBO on scripted television series and films.
Harpo Films President Kate Forte said the move will let the company, which produced the "Oprah Winfrey Presents" films for ABC, expand its repertoire.
"ABC was always incredibly supportive of us," she said. "It's much more about the opportunity that HBO affords us. There are natural limitations to being on network television, and that is certainly ratings-driven and commercial sponsorship, which HBO is not concerned with. . . . The measure of success for them is quality."
Forte said that many of the ideas she suggested to Winfrey in the last year were a better fit for the premium cable channel than for a broadcast network. She added that many top directors and writers have expressed reluctance about working on movies with commercial interruptions.
Winfrey's most recent project for ABC was the movie "Mitch Albom's For One More Day," which aired last year.
"We were thrilled to be a part of launching the franchise and we wish her all the best in the future," ABC said.
Harpo and HBO executives declined to name any specific projects they would launch together but said they would collaborate on series, films and documentaries.
"When we sat with Kate and Oprah, it was so clear that they had the enthusiasm, vision and taste that dovetailed with ours and was consistent with the kind of programming that we've otherwise been doing," said Michael Lombardo, president of HBO's programming group.
The deal comes as Winfrey plans to launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a cable channel jointly owned by Harpo Inc. and Discovery Communications that is set to premiere in the second half of 2009. The network is envisioned as a place for Winfrey's brand of uplifting lifestyle programs.
Forte said that OWN will primarily consist of unscripted programming, handled by a separate arm of Harpo Inc.
"We're very happy for Oprah," said David C. Leavy, spokesman for Discovery Communications. "To the extent this deal helps drive further interest in Oprah-inspired content, all the better as we prepare to launch our 24/7 network with her."
Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.