Monday, February 20, 2006

Oprah’s Moonlighting for $705,000/Hour

Oprah Winfrey has signed a three-year contract with XM Satellite Radio worth $55 million. She has personally committed to only 30 minutes of air time per week (and that’s with Gayle King).

And you know damn well a year doesn’t mean 52 weeks in celebrity contracts, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. 52 weeks per year x 3 years = 156 weeks. With only 30 minutes a week, that’s 78 total Oprah broadcast hours. $55,000,000/78 hours = $705,128.21/hour.

Now I know this deal also includes Oprah’s friends, like Bob Greene, Dr. Oz, Gayle King and the rest of the gang, so it’s not really her personal hourly rate – it’s what Harpo Inc. is taking in. And it will have more than 30 minutes of programming per week; probably several hours each day, with rebroadcasts all day long. But if Harpo Inc.’s distribution of funds is like the rest of corporate America, it’s mostly going into the executive’s pockets, Ms. O’s, and not the rest of the friends.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Oprah. I remember when she came to Baltimore in the 1970s on a local magazine program called People Are Talking. She’s quite charming and very generous with her money, and maybe some, most or all of this $55 million is going to charity. But I do have to question the egO. So many one-named stars: Oprah, Cher, Regis, the Donald. Don’t you just want to say: “Hey, get Over yourselves!”

In the Frequently Asked Questions About Oprah on (is it OK that I didn’t capitalize her name here in this one instance?), the answer to FAQ 4 of 5 (Where was Oprah born?), you get the following diatribe: “Oprah has left an indelible mark on the face of television. Coming from humble beginnings in rural Mississippi, she has risen to become one of the most powerful figures in the world. Get the facts about her career, her company, her achievements and her mission here.” Jesus! “Mississippi” would have sufficed. “Kosciusko, Mississippi” if you want to be specific.

And then there’s O, The Oprah Magazine. I’m Ok with her being in print, and she is an icon and a brand and all that, but do you think she might put someone else on the cover besides herself just once? Is that asking too much? Would circulation numbers really plummet? Would readers across America just die? To me, it’s a little Over the top. OK, way Over the top.

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