XM Satellite Radio is paying Oprah Winfrey $55 million, AKA "Stedman's allowance," for what essentially amounts to a day or two of carpet-bomb publicity.
And what do they get in return for the channel to be known as "Oprah and Friends" and set to launch in seven months? They get half-an-hour a week, 39 weeks a year, of taped programming from Oprah herself.
The rest of the year's 8,760 hours will be filled with such notable radio personalities as Bob Greene, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Robin Smith, Marianne Williamson and Nate Berkus. In other words, "Oprah and Friends" will be 0.223 percent Oprah and 99.777 percent "friends."
So what will listeners actually hear from Diva O?:
Winfrey said during a Thursday teleconference that "we have until September" to figure out the format of her show, but she did say it will reflect her typical chats with longtime friend (Gayle) King.
"Gayle and I have said for years it's a shame other people couldn't be in on the conversation sometimes," Winfrey said. "It will be about what's going on in the world, and just us talking about it the way we talk about it, as girlfriends. . . . I think that Gayle and Oprah reality radio is going to be a huge hit."
The fact that Oprah has given essentially zero thought to her radio content hints that this is something of a panic move by XM. They had been riding high with more subscribers and greater profitability than their slow-off-the-mark competitor Sirius. But XM was outperformed by Sirius in the fourth quarter of 2005 in new subscribers, and its stock price shed nearly 40 percent in the same period.
Oprah's TV show bags a lot of A-list celebrities, but unless her guests write a fraudulent "nonfiction" book, her interviews somehow manage to leave us knowing less about the interviewees. That is, when she's actually interviewing her guests and not launching into her typically self-indulgent pedantry.
So what genius at XM thought that the most tedious elements of Oprah would also be the most entertaining?