Harpo Studios’ future: “A content factory”

After Oprah wraps her 25-year-old daytime show in May, the two studios at Harpo Inc. may simply go dark. While the company hinted a new program might replace “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” behind-the-scenes production work is all that’s slated now.

“This is going to be a content factory, for many platforms and distribution outlets, from digital to video-on-demand to cable,” said Harpo co-president Erik Logan.

Harpo’s radio division will keep pumping out new programming for Sirius XM and syndication, while Harpo Creative Works, a division that makes TV promos, will feed the spinoffs and may even expand, says Mr. Logan, who leads Harpo with co-president Sheri Salata, reports Lynne Marek in Crain’s Chicago Business

About 50 Harpo workers have left in the past year, some to join OWN in Los Angeles and others to join the spinoffs, which all tape in New York or Los Angeles. This month Harpo quit leasing a sixth building. And the fate of its 5,500-square-foot Oprah Store on a few blocks away is being evaluated, Mr. Logan says.

Even so, he expects Harpo can keep its 400 full- and part-time employees busy in its five-building West Loop campus with editing and other production work for OWN shows, specials and spinoffs.

Harpo already has worked with non-Chicago partners on producing three programs for OWN: “Master Class,” “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” and “In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman.”

Ms. Winfrey isn’t likely to cut her Chicago staff, but the future size of the operation may depend on the ingenuity of the people who remain, says Bill Kurtis, the WBBM-TV/Channel 2 news anchor who is also president of an eponymous production company in Chicago.

“I’m sure they’re looking at all kinds of things, but it would be best if they could fill it with a Dr. Phil or Nate Berkus daytime show,” he says.

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