Oprah Means Business - Page 3 of 8

Oprah Means Business

one other on-air talent at the time: the late Johnny Carson. Today, with a few exceptions, it’s virtually impossible for talent to own a show since those FCC rules have long been rescinded, and networks are no longer restricted from profiting in distribution deals.

Bennett notes positioning also significantly impacted Oprah’s financial success. “The network had an opportunity to put Oprah on the network in daytime,” he explains. “If they had done that, she would never have gone into syndication, [which] is a more lucrative business. If you are on ABC in daytime, let’s say like The View, you’re going to get one paycheck from ABC. Oprah gets 222 paychecks from all the TV stations, from every single market, every single month.”

On the day Winfrey met with BE, she was visibly under the weather; her voice was scratchy, and her eyes were weak. Her big, curly tendrils were gracefully pulled from her face. Winfrey had moved up our appointment in hopes of getting home a bit early to rest, but an endless list of meetings and phone calls made that impossible.

It’s typical for her schedule to be grueling: a car picks her up at 6:30 a.m. and, after roughly two hours of hair and makeup, she does a live and, sometimes, a taped show. She must also meet monthly deadlines for completing columns and cover shoots for her magazine. In March, she embarked on a 10-week live, online seminar for her book club, and she also hosts a weekly 30-minute show on her XM channel. Then there’s the charitable initiatives she’s passionate about, developed, and managed through O Philanthropy. They include the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which she spent more than $40 million to open last year; and Oprah’s Angel Network, for which she’s raised more than $70 million since 1998. “She’s probably one of the hardest-working people at the company,” says King. “At a time when she really could kick back and relax, I honestly think she’s working harder now than she ever has.”

Despite her ailments or appointments, Oprah would not have cancelled this interview. In her 22 years of business, she remembers canceling only three meetings due to dire situations. “The greatest fear for me of ever canceling is that you’re going to disappoint somebody,” she explains. “It’s no small thing. I take it personally. That’s what commitment means to me.”

We met in her large, invitingly warm office, accented with art, books, and tons of photos of family, friends, colleagues, and celebrities who document what she calls a “miraculous life.” At the far end of her office facing her desk hangs a significant piece of art, produced by Whitfield Lovell, one of her favorite artists. The wall-length image is called “Having” and features two African American female entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century. Winfrey imagines they were dressmakers by the design of their frocks. Those two women and what they represent,