Television

Discovery hikes stake to majority in Oprah Winfrey JV

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MUMBAI: David Zaslaw-headed Discovery Communications has been on an aggressive acquisition spree as it seeks to increase its relevance in an increasingly fragmenting multiplatform video world. It first acquired Eurosport completely in 2015 and followed it by acquiring Scripps Networks earlier this year for a massive $14.6 billion. Now, it has gone ahead and signed an agreement with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Inc to acquire another 24.5 per cent stake in the 50:50 joint venture it has with her in the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

This transaction represents Winfrey’s first payment from Harpo ownership stake in OWN in the 10 years since forming the joint venture with Discovery. Winfrey’s Harpo will retain a significant minority interest in OWN and Winfrey will continue in her role as CEO, with her exclusivity commitment to the network extended through 2025.

“Ten years ago, Oprah and I began to imagine what a network, inspired by her vision and values, could mean to viewers across the US,” said Discovery president & CEO David Zaslav. “In an increasingly crowded landscape, OWN has emerged as the leading destination for African-American women and one of the strongest super-fan brands across all screens and services. This transaction allows Discovery and Oprah to unlock more value from our partnership; extends once more her commitment to the network; and lets us continue our strong work together to nourish OWN viewers with the content they love.”

“Creating OWN and seeing it flourish, supported by Discovery and a rapidly growing group of the finest storytellers in film and television, is one of my proudest achievements,” said Winfrey. “I’m thrilled with the network’s success and excited about this next chapter in our partnership. Together, we’ll continue to inspire our viewers with real-life stories that are emotional and entertaining, connecting them to each other and to their greatest potential.”

Launched in 2011, OWN has become the #1 network for African-American women with the top four original scripted series on ad-supported cable. The network is led by hit series including Queen Sugar andGreenleaf, the top two original series on all of television Wednesday nights for African-American viewers. OWN and Winfrey have created unparalleled social media engagement, delivering the most social shows on ad-supported cable with three shows in the Top 10. The network has recently expanded its relationships with premier storytellers and producers including Ava DuVernay, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, Academy Award-winning “Moonlight” writer/producer Tarell Alvin McCraney and prolific filmmaker Will Packer.

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