From TV to philanthropy, everything is Oprah's business
Oprah Winfrey is commonly referred to as the “Queen of All Media,” and for good reason: There’s hardly an area of popular culture in which the influence of the top-earning celebrity — $290 million in the past year, according to Forbes — isn’t powerfully felt. With “The Oprah Winfrey Show” signing off tomorrow, amNew-York looked at the beloved 57-year-old host’s media and philanthropic empire:
TV is, of course, Winfrey’s bread and butter. She’s bringing her syndicated show — which has run continuously since 1986 — to a close after more than 5,000 episodes, in part to devote more energy to her fledgling Oprah Winfrey Network.
OWN badly needs a lift. It has struggled since its January launch, drawing in a subpar average of 153,000 daily viewers as of May 15, according to Business Week.
For OWN to survive, Winfrey will have to break out the star-making muscles she flexed on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Dr. Phil McGraw, Rachael Ray and Dr. Mehmet Oz owe their careers to Winfrey, who introduced them to the world.
Beyond that, she’ll need to find a way to imbue the network’s daily programming slate with the same magnetism she brought to her syndicated show.
“She’s perfect for the small screen,” said Robert J. Thompson, pop culture professor at Syracuse University. “I put her in that category with Johnny Carson, Walter Cronkite, Mr. Rogers, maybe Arthur Godfrey.”
It’s easy to forget that Winfrey is an acclaimed actress, Oscar- nominated for her role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple.” Through Harpo Films, she’s remained involved in motion picture production and distribution, having supported “Precious” as executive producer, among other movies.
“As a movie/TV producer, she has smartly associated herself with things that have been very good fits [for her brand],” said Movie City News editor David Poland.
She’s been a player on Broadway as well, having co-produced “The Color Purple” musical.
Publishers will miss Oprah’s Book Club, with which Winfrey demonstrated an unparalleled ability to propel books to best-seller status by touting them on air.
And O: The Oprah Magazine, the lifestyle glossy that Winfrey founded in 2000, is going strong in its second decade.
Winfrey also is a major presence on XM Satellite Radio, where her “Oprah Radio” channel features programs with contributors such as Dr. Oz and Gayle King.
“‘Oprah’ wasn’t a TV show — it was a lifestyle, and she spread it about,” Thompson said.
Winfrey has donated millions to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation.
In 2007, she founded the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa to give poor, academically gifted girls the chance to succeed.
Her Angel Network, which was founded in 1998 and disbanded in 2010, built schools and youth centers, gave scholarships, and offered funding grants to charities.
All told, Winfrey donated $41.4 million to charity in 2010.
“Some people think of her as the Michael Jordan of celebrity philanthropy,” said Stephanie Sandler of the philanthropic consultancy firm the Giving Back Fund.
Money's no issue
Oprah has long been one of the richest and most powerful celebrities in the world. amNewYork takes a look at her past decade of annual earnings, as estimated by Forbes. (All totals are from June the prior year to May or June of the listed year.)
2001: $150 million
2002: $150 million
2003: $180 million
2004: $210 million
2005: $225 million
2006: $225 million
2007: $260 million
2008: $275 million
2009: $275 million
2010: $315 million
2011: $290 million