Oprah Helps Pitch OWN Plans to Comcast

Comcast Corp’s senior management meeting in Phoenix last week included some invited guests, including Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav were there to help pitch Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which is what Discovery Health will become sometime in 2009 in a planned 50-50 joint venture between Discovery and Winfrey's Harpo Productions, Comcast and Discovery confirmed.

The visit came at an important time for Discovery: Zaslav’s networks’ deals are expiring at the top U.S. cable operator in a couple of months, according to people familiar with the situation.

And in the upside department, Winfrey’s presence should help domestic networks’ affiliate chief Bill Goodwyn achieve an improvement over what The Wire hears is a zero-cents license fee for Discovery Health. The channel does have healthy distribution at about 70 million subscribers, and Winfrey has indicated her popular talk show might migrate to OWN after her King World Productions syndication deal with broadcast affiliates expires in 2011.

Discovery told Multichannel News: “Comcast is an important and longstanding partner. We were honored to have Oprah and David present our vision for OWN to their senior management meeting.”

No comment on affiliate terms, though, per Discovery policy.

The Comcast meeting, for senior members of corporate and field management, ran from Sunday, March 2, to last Wednesday and is an event that occurs about every four years, the cabler said.