“I think the internet has allowed a lot of people to be more proud of what they love. Everyone is reflected online.” – Felicia Day
…because through her combination of star power and mogul status, she is the supreme empress of all media. Oprah founded Harpo in 1986 to broadcast her talk show and became one of the most watched programs within a year. In case you missed it, her show went on to attract nearly 40 million viewers per week for 25 years in over 150 countries. Although she continues to expand her empire in TV with the OWN networks, she has also produced films, plays, magazines and online content...and was anyone confused that we referred to Oprah only by her first name?
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Oprah is the first woman to both own and produce her own talk show. After taking over a low-rated local morning show, AM Chicago, she quickly turned the program into a regional sensation, eventually renaming it “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (which we hope you’ve heard of). Seeing the obvious potential in her own program, she founded her production company Harpo to launch the syndicated version of the show. In case you were wondering, Oprah is not a fan of the silent Marx brother – Harpo is Oprah spelled backwards. As the show became a runaway hit, it essentially changed the format of daytime television, leading to the talk show dominated culture we see on networks today (many of which spun off from her program). During her show’s run, Oprah racked up awards and eventually became the highest paid person on television. For all her subsequent success, the decision to take control of her own (OWN?) show when it premiered for a national audience essentially laid the groundwork for her domination.
It’s really hard to overstate the success of Oprah’s show. The numbers basically speak for themselves: 25 years (easily could have run for more), 40 million viewers per week (basically before the age of digital recording boxes) and 150 different countries (there are currently 196 countries). However, for as much as Oprah’s beloved media persona created her television empire, it certainly doesn’t account for all of it. Appearances on her show could make or break a person, product or topic; it’s safe to say even Tom Cruise was never the same after he went bonkers on her couch. Perhaps the most impressive measure of her success in the medium is the number of spin-off programs she has produced. If you’ve heard of Dr. Phil (no last name needed), Suze Orman or Rachael Ray, you can thank Oprah – they sure do! Gayle King is practically a household name by virtue of being Oprah’s BFF. While none of these programs has matched the epic highs of her show from a ratings and cultural standpoint – and “The Dr. Oz Show” has certainly had its share of medical controversies – the fact that these still run over a decade after she left the airwaves is the sign of a legitimate media empire in a turbulent time for the industry.
Oprah is about more than just TV. Sure, she continues to expand her influence in the small screen through her spin-off shows and ventures like the cable channel OWN. But even by the time her show aired nationally, she had already received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Steven Spielberg’s "The Color Purple." She has continued to act in films such as Lee Daniels’ "The Butler," playing the wife of the title character – in fact, she actually produced Lee Daniels’s (the grammatically correct possessive) breakthrough film, "Precious" (based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire). More recently, Oprah also produced and acted in the highly acclaimed "Selma." Her company has also produced TV movies such as the well-received adaptations of Zora Neale Hurston’s "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and Mitch Albom’s "Tuesdays with Morrie." Her work in publishing isn’t even limited to film adaptations or even her famous book club, which arguably has done more for old-fashioned reading in the last twenty year than anything else. She has also published her own books, as well as magazines and a website. The real question is if there is any type of media format Oprah has not ventured into, to which the answer is certainly no – especially if you were going to say radio, because, come on, you think Oprah doesn’t do radio?
The Key To Oprah Winfrey’s Success: Radical FocusRead more
“Why I Said Yes:” Oprah Winfrey on Producing and Acting in SelmaRead more
Academy of Achievement – Oprah WinfreyRead more
Oprah Tearfully Empowers Women to Help Others at Variety’s Power of WomenRead more
Oprah: A BiographyBuy now $8
The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American LegacyBuy now $28
What I Know For SureBuy now $14