Tags: Oprah | Winfrey | Set | Debut | Channel | Satellite

Oprah Winfrey Set to Debut Channel on XM Satellite

Sunday, 24 September 2006 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- Oprah Winfrey will make her radio debut on Monday on a new channel by XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which hopes the media powerhouse can bring her legions of loyal fans to the nascent service.

With "Oprah & Friends," XM hopes to woo Winfrey's primarily female fans to the pay radio service, whose stock has been battered this year on concerns about aggressive spending on programming, a slowdown in automobile production and federal probes related to its radios.

XM shares closed down 16 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $13.35 on Friday and have lost more than half their value this year. However the stock has edged up in recent weeks, fueled by a belief that its sales may improve the rest of the year, according to analysts.

In a recent note to clients, Credit Suisse analyst Brian Kraft said he upgraded XM due to optimism about both the approaching holiday shopping season and the launch of the Oprah Winfrey channel.

But Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. analyst Kit Spring said Winfrey's appearance will not send listeners racing to buy radios the same way that demand was sparked when ribald radio jock Howard Stern debuted in January on XM's rival, Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

"She is going to be meaningful," Spring said. "But Oprah is not a radio personality, she's a TV personality. She mainly appeals to women and probably won't compel that many (potential) subscribers to go out and buy a radio."

However, he said, Winfrey may boost XM's so-called conversion rate -- the rate at which new-car buyers turn a free XM trial into a paid subscription. Subscribers typically pay about $13 a month for XM or Sirius services.

It's likely that Oprah will use her popular daily TV platform to promote the channel, just as she's done for film, magazine and Broadway productions. In a short segment about the launch this week, Winfrey highlighted the hosts of the shows, many of which will be broadcast from a new radio studio in her Chicago production headquarters.

"I hope you get your XM radios," she told the audience.

The signing of a $55 million, three-year agreement with Winfrey was not a tit-for-tat response to Sirius' $500 million deal with Stern or its pact with lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, XM said.

"XM has its own long-term programming strategy independent of what the competition chooses to do," an XM spokesman said.

Winfrey's channel will mix daily and weekly programming by Winfrey and her colleagues, many of whom are staples on her syndicated daily talk show, her monthly magazine or in related best-selling books. They include Gayle King, who co-hosts the weekly "Oprah & Gayle" show, and poet Maya Angelou.

Unlike Stern, Winfrey, whose TV show has been on for more than 20 years, is expected to broadcast live only on a limited basis. A full schedule for the channel is expected to be announced on Monday at a press event in New York.

The launch expands Winfrey's media empire, adding Harpo Radio to Harpo Films, Harpo Productions, Harpo Print and Harpo Inc. units.

(c) 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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NEW YORK -- Oprah Winfrey will make her radio debut on Monday on a new channel by XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., which hopes the media powerhouse can bring her legions of loyal fans to the nascent service. With "Oprah & Friends," XM hopes to woo Winfrey's primarily...
Oprah,Winfrey,Set,Debut,Channel,Satellite
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2006-00-24
Sunday, 24 September 2006 12:00 AM
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