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Oprah to Leave Syndication in 2011

As predicted earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey will not renew her deal with CBS Syndication (CBS) when it expires in 2011. Instead she'll focus entirely on her new cable channel, called "OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network."

Oprah Winfrey
AP
Oprah Winfrey

(Here's my blog anticipating this move earlier this month.)

When Winfrey's last show airs on Sept 9, 2011, it will be wrapping up its 25th season on the air. The show's been the standard-bearer for daytime television; it's the most successful syndicated show on air, reaching some seven million homes.

By deciding not to renew her contract for another year to 2012, Oprah is leaving plenty of cash on the table. Instead she's prioritizing the cable network she co-owns with Discovery Communications (DISCA). After several delays, the new channel is set to launch early next year, replacing the struggling "Discovery Health" and reaching 70 million homes.

Oprah's move deals another blow to local news. Her show is a crucial, high-rated lead into the evening news, which is already struggling with declining ratings and advertising. Many of ABC (DIS) owned-and-operated affiliates, as well as CBS' syndication group, carry Winfrey's programs.

Her decision also shines a spotlight on the increasing shift from broadcast networks to cable. Oprah's making the very same move that many Americans have already made; ratings on cable networks continue to rise as broadcast ratings stagnate and fall.

In fact, the ratings and ad pricing at NBC Universal's USA Network (GE) are often on par with the big four. Cable and satellite TV distribution is so widespread, we are seeing a mind-shift -- that cable is now mainstream.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.