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Harpo Execs Lead New Development Unit

Harpo Productions, Oprah Winfrey's production company, will start a new television development group headed by Ellen Rakieten, who has been the executive producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show for the past three seasons, and Harriet Seitler, former director of creative services and program development, who has worked on the show since 1995.

Winfrey, of course, rules daytime TV, and has had some of her strongest years after Rakieten, who's been with Winfrey from the start, was put in charge.

Sheri Salata was named the new executive producer, and Lisa Erspamer was promoted to co-executive producer. Both have been Oprah supervising producers for the last 11 years.

The new unit will create "new television programming and media opportunities for long-term growth "for "syndication, network, cable and digital," according to the statement from Chicago-based Harpo. In their new roles, Rakieten and Seitler will be staying put.

"I believe the creation of our development group is one of the most significant moments in Harpo's history and will be instrumental to our future," Winfrey said in a statement.

Before there was a formal television development group, Harpo, working with Paramount and King World Productions, spawned Dr. Phil in 2002 and, next Monday, working with Scripps Productions, will roll out the Rachael Ray talk show in syndication.

A separate unit, Harpo Films, based in Los Angeles, will continue to be headed by Kate Forte. It produces motion pictures and telepics for Harpo. It's expected to be expanding its slate, too.