Oprah’s Next Chapter: Getting Back Into The Newsmaker Interview game

By Alex Weprin Comment

Be advised TV news bookers: Oprah Winfrey wants back in on the high-profile newsmaker interview game. When her syndicated talk show ended last year, Oprah left the limelight, and said that she would be dedicating her time to running her cable channel OWN. She would also host a new version of her talk show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” which would feature evergreen interviews with celebrities.

In the last few months, OWN and Oprah have slowly shifted that strategy, trying to book people in the news now, not just people who happen to be famous.

This Sunday, for example, Winfrey will interview the 2012 NBA Champions the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. Winfrey interviewed Newark Mayor Cory Booker after he ran into a burning building and pulled a woman out earlier this year, as well as the family of singer Whitney Houston, their first interview since her death.

“Oprah’s Next Chapter” still features plenty of evergreen celebrity interviews (Neil Patrick Harris, the Kardashian family and Carrie Underwood are all recent guests), but OWN producers are keeping a close watch on the news, and booking accordingly.

The show has become in effect OWN’s signature program, and the channel’s most-watched shows of all time are “Oprah’s Next Chapter” installments. For Oprah and OWN, now only is it a throwback top her talk show days, but it is the life vest keeping the channel afloat, even as the rest of the network slowly sinks. For TV news programs like the network morning shows (including “CBS This Morning,” hosted by Oprah’s BFF Gayle King) and primetime features, it means more competition for high-profile guests.