Harpo Takes Talk Reins at King World

In an unexpected move, King World Productions CEO Roger King has turned over talk-show development for the giant syndicator to the queen of talk shows and his No. 1 star, Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah's first show under the new deal is likely to debut in fall 2006. King declined to elaborate on plans, saying it's too early in the process to comment.

It's an unusual step for King, who rarely admits that someone can do a job better than he can. “The person who develops the next hit will probably be Oprah Winfrey,” he says.

King has changed the way syndicated fare is sold, distributed, marketed and scheduled. Perfecting the art of selling shows years in advance, he persuaded TV stations covering more than 80% of the U.S. to agree to air Oprah through 2011. Of course, her powerhouse, genre-dominating ratings sweep after sweep didn't hurt his case.

King World is running on all cylinders this season, boasting the top game shows, talkers, the top off-net drama and the top off-net sitcom.

King's skills as a salesman may be legendary, but his record is spotty when it comes to developing talk shows. Of his last five attempts, only one is a hit. That show, Dr. Phil, was created by Winfrey's Harpo Productions as an Oprah spinoff.

Now, King has worked out a deal with Winfrey and Oprah executive producer Ellen Rakieten.

They are charged with crafting new shows using the same formula that turned an unknown Texas psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw, into a multimillionaire and the second most-watched syndicated talk-show host in America.