Television's Blindside: Prime-Time Oprah, CBS Records

From the department of I-didn’t-see-it-coming: CBS is getting back into the record business and Oprah Winfrey will start up two prime-time reality series.

CBS had been in the record business for decades until it sold the Columbia Records name to Sony in the late ‘80s. Now the music business is very different, with low start-up fees for developing artists, thanks to the low start-up fees in the digital music space.

CBS feels it can make some money. It certainly has the platform as a marketing tool for those musicians--via television, radio, or on CBS’s broadband channel. CBS doesn’t even need to make a complete CD or albums. It can just release a couple of songs on iTunes, for example. It won’t need the massive overhead of other established record companies

I didn’t see it coming. Perhaps CBS will buy the New York Yankees again.



I also didn’t see that Winfrey would be offering up two reality “wish-fulfillment” shows for ABC, her longtime TV distribution partner. This was a natural for Winfrey, considering the positive, motivational, self-improvement programming she does on her daytime show with her guests.

The first show, "Oprah Winfrey's The Big Give," follows a group of 10 people who will be handed money and resources--and then challenged to find dramatic and emotional ways to help others. The second show, "Your Money or Your Life,” will focus on a family facing a crisis.

These shows will be a natural extension of the ultimate wish-fulfillment show on ABC, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” For some time, ABC really had nothing to pair that show with, in terms of packaging it to advertisers. “Super Nanny” is perhaps the closest to “Makeover” in that it deals closely with families.

Winfrey has resisted doing prime-time series for years, despite ABC’s pleadings. These two reality series will start up, like any other reality shows, as short-run efforts. “Give,” for example, has an initial eight-episode order.

I didn’t see it coming, but looking at Winfrey’s daytime syndicated show, it makes sense. With her strong daytime ratings, her $140,000-a-30-second-commercial price, her $20 cost per thousand viewers on adults 25-54, Winfrey has had prime-time series performance and advertising credentials for years. 

If she hosts these shows, she’ll bring her loyal audience right into prime time, just as she does with her specials.

While the rest of the TV business world has been asleep, ABC--as well as CBS with its music business start-ups--sees success coming.

Next story loading loading..