Ever-extending empire

Oprah and Friends channel debuts today on XM radio

September 25, 2006|By Susan Whitall | Susan Whitall,The Detroit News

Today, XM Satellite Radio launches its much-ballyhooed Oprah and Friends channel with a roster of programs hosted by friends of Oprah Winfrey's, including spiritual author Marianne Williamson, poet Maya Angelou, best friend Gayle King and fitness expert Bob Greene.

This morning Winfrey will ring Nasdaq's opening bell, and the Oprah and Friends programming will launch at 11 a.m. on XM channel 156 with "Oprah and Gayle," a phone conversation between Winfrey and King.

"I don't categorize it as programming for women so much as programming for interesting people," Harpo Radio general manager John Gehron said, although he quipped, "I've become a more sensitive man listening to all this programming." (Harpo Radio, one of Winfrey's production companies, is collaborating with XM radio on the Oprah channel.)

Oprah and Friends will run all day, several days a week, with live and live-to-tape programs debuting and then repeating later in the day and on the weekend.

Gehron describes the new channel as "almost like audio on demand. With terrestrial radio, if you miss the morning show, you're done. But with our channel, you'll have four chances to hear Dr. Oz [Mehmet] or Gayle King or any of our other hosts."

Williamson has already interviewed Thomas Friedman of The New York Times for a show about the Middle East, and she's also got a show on forgiveness in the can.

"I'm going to be talking about issues that affect our capacity to better our own lives but also affect our capacity to better the world," Williamson said. "The whole Oprah and Friends phenomenon is a wonderful way for her to extend her influence, and it's an honor to be part of it."

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