Has billionaire Oprah Winfrey's image started to slip? According to The New York Times, nearly every aspect of Oprah's empire has had a downturn over the past three years. Make no mistake - the brand is very much alive but the slippage is significant.
The Oprah Winfrey Show has lost 7 percent of it's viewership this year alone. Nielsen Media Research statistics show that it is the third straight year of decline for the afternoon talk show. It remains the top talk show but is declining while Ellen DeGeneres is gaining market share.
O's latest television venture, Oprah's Big Give started hot out of the gate but declined rapidly. Initial word was that the ABC reality program was canceled after one season. Oprah's camp immediately issued a statement saying they chose not to renew and eventually ABC chimed in and said they loved the show and would have given it a second season nod had it not been for Oprah's decision to curtail the project.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that Oprah's magazine O has fallen off more than 10 percent in the last three years. This significant loss of market share has prompted the retirement of editor in chief Amy Gross. She will stay at the helm until her replacement is in place.
Oprah has taken a bit of a beating for her endorsement of political candidate Barack Obama. Some speculate that she has fallen out of favor with many of the middle aged white women who support Senator Hillary Clinton. A Gallup poll was conducted shortly after Winfrey declared herself an Obama supporter in October 2007. Her favorable rating fell by 8 percentage points while here unfavorable rating jumped to 26 percent from 17 percent. Clearly the endorsement hurt O. The celebrity has not been involved in the campaign since February.
The president of Harpo Productions, Tim Bennett, doesn't believe that Oprah's political endorsement has caused her primary business venture to falter. His theory is that the decline is due to a general weakness in the overall television audience. He contends that they have not received any feedback that would suggest anything is amiss.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls is perhaps Winfrey's crowning accomplishment and even that philanthropic venture received negative publicity last year over allegations that a dorm matron was abusing students. A trial is scheduled to start in July.
One of Harpo's latest programs, The Rachael Ray Show, has recently fallen off of Nielsen's list of the top 25 syndicated programs. A new development deal is in the works featuring Kirstie Alley. The actress recently severed ties with weight loss maven Jenny Craig and is reportedly putting together her own program.
Oprah is embarking on a new cable channel startup in conjunction with Discovery Communications. The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will broadcast empowering programs. She also has a new gig going on Satellite radio.
Clearly the empire is still churning right along and generating mega revenue at every turn. Evidence is mounting that would suggest that people have started to consider Oprah a mere mortal where once she was worshiped by the masses; no doubt a humbling experience for Lady O - and then again maybe not.
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