Oprah and her money

Article by Siim Einfeldt

Oprah is a media and entertainment mogul who has built her empire on reaching out to millions of people across the globe, inspiring them to follow their dreams (or depending on whom we ask, take advantage of them). Throughout this journey she has acquired a vast amount of wealth, with an estimated net worth of over a billion dollars as of 2013. From this an important question arises: where is the money coming from? There are several major possibilities. The first is her massively successful daytime talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The second is her supplementary media empire, including the Oprah Magazine and other Harpo Productions. The third is her television network, the Oprah Winfrey Network. These media institutions have consolidated to create a highly profitable media and entertainment empire with services primarily targeted towards women.

The Oprah Winfrey Show was developed in the 1980's from a locally run talk show in the Chicago market. Oprah's success on this talk show quickly raised her profile and her income. The show would become The Oprah Winfrey Show, a profitable ratings success that eventually became syndicated across the country. The key to the profitability of the show for Ms. Winfrey is that she eventually acquired complete ownership of it. This meant that, unlike other popular daytime talk show hosts, she was able to take in all the profits from the show’s advertising across the country without being beholden to network executives paying her a salary. This also allowed her to take control of her show's topical coverage, which went from sensational fare to issues of empowerment, social issues, and celebrities. 

Harpo Studios, the production company that Oprah is CEO of, emerged from the success of The Oprah Winfrey Show. It went on to produce other successful daytime talk shows like The Nate Berkus Show, Rachel Ray, and Dr. Phil. These talk show hosts all started as regular contributor’s to Winfrey’s program and ended up becoming successful personalities in their own right. They are some of the most successful talk shows on television and Oprah, along with Harpo Studios, profits from their success. While the Nate Berkus show was cancelled, Harpo’s remaining productions remain a positive contribution to Oprah’s bottom line. She’s used her money to buy homes and expensive products across the world, including her primary residence in Montecito, California and a home in Hawaii. 

After her show ended, Harpo's remaining ventures have continued to bring in money for Oprah. Their ventures include the Oprah radio network on Sirius Satellite Radio, with shows hosted by popular personalities like longtime Oprah girlfriend Gayle King. Oprah also shares ownership of the successful publication, O, The Oprah Magazine, with a total circulation of over two million readers, making it one of the country’s most-read publications. The final major component of the empire that contributes to Oprah’s net worth is OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Since its inception, it has struggled with ratings and had trouble finding an audience. But in 2013, it became profitable for the first time, adding another source of revenue for Oprah. 

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