Everyone wants to be on streaming TV, even Oprah Winfrey

Oprah isn’t ready to quit.
Oprah isn’t ready to quit.
Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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You may soon be bingeing on new Oprah Winfrey programs. The unstoppable business woman, entertainer, philanthropist, and dreamed-about presidential candidate signed a deal with Apple, announced on June 15, to create original content for the tech company’s streaming TV project.

The multi-year deal is something of a mystery right now—there’s no indication from either party as to just how long “multi-year” is, what the agreement is worth, or even what precisely Winfrey will be creating. Unlike other massive streaming ties-ups—such as Netflix’s $300 million partnership with Ryan Murphy or Amazon’s mega deal with Jordan Peele—Winfrey has not released any details and Apple kept its announcement pretty brief, calling their arrangement “unique” in a statement.

“Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world,” the tech company said. “Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.”

According to TechCrunch,  Apple’s streaming service is slated to be particularly robust for the broadcast newcomer. Along with the Winfrey content, Apple will also include a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, a series starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston about the television industry, an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, a thriller starring Octavia Spencer, a comedy with Kristen Wiig, a scripted basketball show, a series from the director of “La La Land’s” and other shows.

Given Winfrey’s range, it’s difficult to speculate on what she might do. She could be making anything from entertainment to educational programming, or perhaps go back to her roots as a self-help guru or talk-show host. She could be on-screen or behind the scenes—acting, directing, producing, or perhaps all three. Either way, Apple joins Netflix—which signed prolific ABC producer Shonda Rhimes to a recent massive programming partnership—in luring talent that is female and racially diverse.

What is certain, however, is that this megastar of traditional TV is jumping on the streaming bandwagon. And she’s not alone.  Everyone, it seems, wants to create streaming content—and this has transformed how we consume entertainment. As Ashley Rodriguez reported in Quartz in May, American viewers “love their streaming platforms.”  In a survey of 45,000 telecommunications customers, users expressed high satisfaction with services like Netflix and Amazon’s Twitch especially.

At the same time that performers and creators appear eager to plant themselves onto our computer screens, tech companies are scrambling to produce massive amounts of content both quickly and with star power. In May, for example, Amazon announced that its deal with Peele includes a 10-episode series about Nazi hunters.

Winfrey, whose latest broadcast effort, the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, hasn’t quite owned TV like she might have hoped, will take yet another bite with Apple. Her podcast, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations—an OWN production—was a No. 1 hit on Apple podcasts.