Entertainment Industry

Category: CBS

CBS outlines post-CEO production deal with Leslie Moonves

MoonvesNAB2011

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves has nearly three years remaining on his employment contract, and after that, he will be entitled to a lucrative CBS-financed television and movie production deal.

CBS and Moonves this week signed an agreement that sketches out Moonves' tentative producer agreement, according to a filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The proposed arrangement borrows from a particularly rich production deal that former News Corp. President Peter Chernin exercised when he left the executive suite of Fox in 2009. Last week, private equity firm Providence Equity Partners invested $200 million in Chernin's company -- demonstrating the potential value of a company headed by one of the biggest names in the entertainment business.

But, unlike Chernin, Moonves may choose not to trade in his executive stripes to run a production company. The filing did not rule out the possibility that Moonves, 62, could extend his employment agreement with CBS, keeping him at the CEO controls beyond the current February 2015 expiration of his contract.

Last year, Moonves received compensation of $69.9 million for his CEO role, making him the highest-compensated executive in Hollywood.

Under the proposed contract, Moonves could trigger the production deal once he steps down. CBS would be required to finance the enterprise for at least four years and invest as much as $3 million a year to cover the operation's overhead for staffing and a development fund to buy projects.

CBS would be obligated to buy at least three TV series projects over the life of the deal. CBS would have to pay Moonves license fees for TV shows equal to the highest amount paid to other producers who do business with the network or with CBS Studios.

CBS also would be required to pay Moonves a guaranteed fee of $1.5 million a year.

"This fixed fee is offset and reduced dollar for dollar by all executive producing fees earned for shows ordered from Mr. Moonves," the agreement states. "Mr. Moonves will earn fees for each hour and half hour scripted series and for each alternative series that are accepted by CBS, subject to pre-defined terms and at rates generally consistent with those paid to other top producers with Mr. Moonves’ skill, experience and record of success."

CBS would also be required to pay Moonves a "penalty fee" if the network failed to order the agreed-upon number of TV shows.  Chernin's agreement with Fox contains a similar provision. 

Under the terms of the deal, CBS has a first look at all of his movie projects. If CBS gave its blessing to a movie, Moonves would receive a producer fee, plus "certain contingent compensation if, and only if, the film achieves profitability." He would be entitled to the same profit-sharing agreements that the company's current CBS Films extends to other producers.

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Photo: Leslie Moonves, right, president and chief executive of CBS Corp. at the National Assn. of Broadcasters convention in 2011. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

Viacom profit up 56%, boosted by higher cable fees

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Viacom Inc.'s second-quarter profit soared 56%, thanks to higher fees from pay-television operators and lower expenses at the company's Paramount Pictures movie studio.

For the quarter ended March 31, Viacom earned $585 million, or $1.07 per share, up from $376 million, or 63 cents a share, in the same period in 2011. Revenue grew 2% to $3.33 billion.

"Across our divisions we sharpened our focus on execution and efficiency while continuing to invest in programming that connects with audiences worldwide," Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman told analysts in a Thursday morning conference call.  "Distribution continues to be a strong and steady driver for Viacom."

The New York-based media company's earnings exceeded analysts' estimates while revenue was largely within expectations. The company, controlled by billionaire Sumner Redstone, also spent about $700 million during the quarter to repurchase 14.7 million shares.

The bulk of the company's earnings came from its Media Networks unit, which includes cable channels MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, VH1 and TV Land.  Revenue generated by cable channels grew 5% to $2.2 billion, driven by an increase in affiliate fees paid by cable and satellite television operators.  Affiliate fee revenue was up 17%. 

Media networks' operating income climbed 11% to $893 million. Domestic advertising revenue inched up 1%, while foreign advertising revenue remained flat. 

"We are seeing encouraging signs of a strengthening ad market," Dauman noted.

At the Los Angeles-based Paramount Pictures, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, revenue dropped 5% to $1.17 billion.  The company attributed the lower revenue to a "less widely distributed mix of releases during the quarter," which included the highly profitable "The Devil Inside" and DreamWorks Pictures'  Eddie Murphy vehicle, "A Thousand Words," which flopped.

Theatrical revenue was down 19% to $326 million for the quarter.  The division was helped during the quarter by carry-over receipts from "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," with Tom Cruise, which was released in the previous quarter.

Operating income at the film studio nearly tripled to $115 million, up from $39 million in the year-earlier period. The company said the studio's higher margin came from lower distribution costs.

"We are being disciplined in managing our expenses," Chief Operating Officer Thomas Dooley told the analysts.  

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-- Meg James

Photo:  Eddie Murphy plays a cad named Jack in the DreamWorks comedy "A Thousand Words," released during the first quarter by Paramount Pictures.   Credit: Bruce McBroom / DreamWorks Pictures

 

Sumner Redstone at Global Conference: "Take risks"

Sumner Redstone

Sumner Redstone has a regret.

His father, Michael “Mickey” Redstone, didn’t live to see his son’s unqualified success in the business world. Sumner Redstone -- who controls two of the world’s preeminent media companies, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. -- has memories of his father that were etched during the Depression when the family lived in a West Boston tenement. 

 “I can remember him carrying rolls of linoleum on his back,” Redstone said Wednesday during an appearance at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills.  “He believed in hard work.  He had to work hard, and I had to work hard.” 

The title of the Global Conference session was “What it Means to be an Entrepreneur: A conversation with Sumner Redstone.” Redstone was interviewed by Michael Milken, and the two men hadn’t gotten too far into their dialogue when Redstone groused that more than a quarter of a century ago, Milken charged him “an extra quarter-percent interest” on a loan that Redstone took out to begin building his empire.  

Redstone still seemed peeved. “I’ve been paying for it ever since,” Milken lamented.

The legacy of Redstone -- who is three weeks shy of his 89th birthday --- has been written by many, including by Redstone himself. And, on Wednesday, Redstone told his story again to a standing room crowd in a small conference room at the Beverly Hilton. 

The secret to success, the mogul said, was: “You have to be in control of your destiny.  You can’t work for anyone else.  It’s not about money, it’s about winning.  You have to have a passion to win.”  (That’s also the title of Redstone’s 2001 autobiography.)

“I’ve taken some perilous risks. But I never took them unless I was confident that the rewards far outweighed the risk,” Redstone said.   

Perhaps his biggest risk was the hostile corporate take-over, in 1987, of Viacom Inc., then a cable television company with some puny channels named MTV and Nickelodeon.  Investment bankers wanted Redstone to sell the channels to pay down debt. Redstone refused.

Now MTV and Nickelodeon are Viacom's financial engines.

“My father, he always thought I was taking too big of a risk on Viacom.  He said, 'You’re betting your life on Viacom.'  I told him that I wanted to,” Redstone told the group.  “Unfortunately, he never lived to see the success of Viacom.”

Viacom now is valued at $27 billion. (CBS, Redstone's other company, has a $22-billion market cap.)

“I saw that content was king; I coined that phrase decades ago,” Redstone told Milken and the group, which included CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves; Mel Karmazin, chief executive of Sirius XM Radio Inc. and former chief operating officer of Viacom; CBS board member Arnold Kopelson; movie producer Robert Evans; music producer Quincy Jones; and former CBS personality Mary Hart. 

Milken asked Redstone how he judged talent in the executive suite, although Milken didn’t mention the gallery of executives that Redstone, over the years, booted to the curb (including Karmazin in 2004). 

Milken did mention one piece of talent.  Tom Cruise, one of the most bankable stars ever for Viacom’s movie studio, Paramount Pictures, was dismissed by Redstone in 2006.  “His behavior was terrible; he was jumping on couches,” Redstone said. “Women hated him, a lot of people said they would never come to see another one of his movies. And he made $10 million on the Paramount lot for doing nothing!”

But a few years later, Redstone said, Cruise told him that he wanted to make pictures for Paramount again. Redstone said he said yes, but also told Cruise, “You won’t get the same deal.”

“Today he’s one of my best friends,” Redstone said. “I’ve been for dinner to the house that he shares with his wife, Katie. And today, 'Mission Impossible' is grossing more than any other 'Mission Impossible' before it.  It's on track to gross $700 million. People came back to the movies to see him.” 

These days, Redstone has trouble getting around so he doesn't get out as much as he used to.  But he said he watches a lot of golf on TV (“Tiger [Woods] will never make it again. He’s done,” Redstone predicted).  Redstone also oversees his tanks full of exotic fish in his Beverly Park home.  

“When you look at the fish, you relax.  When you look at the fish, your blood pressure goes down,” Redstone said, adding that despite being worth nearly $4.5 billion, he still has stress in his life.

Milken and Redstone often discuss healthy diets, Milken said. 

“I eat and drink every antioxidant known to man, and I also drink red wine every night," Redstone said "It, fortunately, prevents aging so it is of particular interest to me.”

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-- Meg James  

Photo: Sumner Redstone poses with his Hollywood Walk of Fame star. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA

 

 

CBS will break financial records in 2012, Leslie Moonves predicts

LeslieMoonvesSumnerRedstoneYemenFishing

CBS Corp. might be a titan of old media, but its first-quarter earnings were boosted by gains in new media: the digital distribution of its television programming and the sale of e-books.

"The growth in digital is a positive development for us," CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves told Wall Street analysts in a conference call Tuesday to discuss earnings. "We are extremely pleased with our first quarter. We broke records in five key financial metrics for the quarter, and I’m confident we will break records for the year as well."

The New York-based broadcasting company beat analysts' estimates by reporting 80% higher net earnings. The company earned $363 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, up from $202 million, or 29 cents per diluted share, compared to the year-earlier period. The substantially higher margin came from growth in operating income as well as lower weighted average shares as a result of the company's stock repurchase program.

For the quarter ended March 31, CBS collected revenue of $3.92 billion, an increase of 12% from the first quarter of 2011.

CBS attributed the increase to content licensing, particularly its online distribution deals with Netflix and Amazon.com, and higher fees paid by cable and satellite TV operators for the retransmission of CBS' broadcast signal. Content licensing and distribution revenue soared 39%.

"There are a lot of players out there circling the building," Moonves said. "They need our content.  It's an exciting period of time."

Advertising revenue, company wide, was up 5%. At its flagship CBS broadcast network, ad sales were up 8%. The network, according to Moonves, is expected to end the TV broadcast season with ratings gains in key demographic groups: total viewers, viewers age 18 to 49 and viewers age 25 to 54.

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CBS reports 12% higher revenue in first quarter

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CBS Corp. reported solid earnings Tuesday on higher revenue and advertising sales.

The New York-based broadcasting company reported net earnings of $363 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, up from $202 million, or 29 cents per diluted share, over the year earlier period. The higher margin came from growth in operating income as well as lower weighted average shares as a result of the company's stock repurchase program.

For the quarter ended March 31, the broadcasting company reported revenue of $3.92 billion, an increase of 12% from the first quarter of 2011. CBS attributed the increase to content licensing and higher distribution fees. Advertising revenue was up 5%.

Investors have been expecting CBS to post a strong year -- lifted by hundreds of millions of dollars in political spending expected to flood its TV stations and fees paid by cable and satellite providers for the retransmission of CBS' broadcast signal. The company also is collecting millions in fees paid by online distributors, including Netflix.

CBS shares closed Tuesday at $33.42, up 4 cents.  The shares are trading 33% higher than last year at this time.

CBS owns its flagship CBS television network, which broadcasts such shows as "NCIS," "Survivor" and "Two and a Half Men," television and radio stations, a billboard unit, premium cable channel Showtime, and the Simon & Schuster publishing house.

CBS is expected to discuss its results in an earnings call with analysts later this afternoon.

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-- Meg James

Photo: CBS corporate logo.  Credit: CBS Corp.

Terry Press and Wolfgang Hammer chart CBS Films' new direction

PressHammer

Veteran marketing executive Terry Press and young business executive Wolfgang Hammer were named co-presidents of CBS Films on Monday, tasked with turning around the small film unit of television giant CBS Corp.

Both have been working with CBS Films since late 2010, Hammer as chief operating officer and Press as a consultant.

The duo spoke with Company Town about why they took the jobs and where they hope to take the mini-studio that stumbled out of the gate with movies like "Extraordinary Measures" and "The Back-Up Plan" but recently had its first hit in "The Woman in Black."

Company Town: CBS Films has been without an official leader since September, when [former president] Amy Baer left. What can you tell me about your discussions with [CBS Chief Executive] Leslie Moonves that led this new arrangement?

Wolfgang Hammer: Things have been working very well with the two of us for a long time, so it's fairly easy. It's pretty much business as usual. This is a small company where everyone talks about everything.

Terry Press: There has already been a difference in the model for the company. It's pretty clear that the original plan has evolved into a more lean, mean machine that is a combination of productions and acquisitions. So this is a continuation of what we have been doing.

CT: In short, how would you describe your strategy for CBS Films? You have obviously been putting it into effect for a while now and we saw the first results in "The Woman in Black," but you have never spoken publicly about your vision.

Continue reading »

Wolfgang Hammer, Terry Press named to head CBS Films

Veteran marketing maven Terry Press and young business executive Wolfgang Hammer have been named co-presidents of CBS Films, the movie company owned by television giant CBS Corp.
Veteran marketing maven Terry Press and young business executive Wolfgang Hammer have been named co-presidents of CBS Films, the movie company owned by television giant CBS Corp.

Hammer has been chief operating officer of CBS Films since December 2010, while Press has overseen marketing as a consultant since 2010.

The dual promotions represent a strong vote of confidence by CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves in a pair of executives who have never before held the top job at a studio. He is said by people familiar with the matter to have become a big fan of both Hammer and Press in the last year.

The position has been open since October, when former president Amy Baer was pushed out following a string of flops. Moonves has since then been trying to determine the leadership of the division while reshaping it from a studio focused on producing mid-budget dramas to one that acquires films at festivals and produces director-driven genre films.

Press, 52, has for the last several years been a consultant who, in addition to CBS' releases, has worked on Lionsgate's recent mega-hit "The Hunger Games" and the 2010 Oscar winner "The Social Network." She previously oversaw marketing at DreamWorks and at Walt Disney Studios.

Press' purview has never before extended beyond advertising movies. In her new job, it will extend to the creative side, including development and production, as well as distribution.

Hammer, 34, has had a meteoric rise in his short Hollywood career. After serving for just two years as a vice president of production at Lionsgate, he was a surprise pick in 2010 to be CBS Films' new chief operating officer. He is known as a savvy negotiator and will oversee business, finance and legal affairs as well as acquisitions.

Over the last year, CBS Films has essentially been resetting itself with a new strategy. Following last March's modest performer "Beastly," the unit didn't release any movies until February, when its horror acquisition, "The Woman in Black," starring Daniel Radcliffe, was a surprise hit. Last month, it released the romantic drama "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" in a limited number of theaters, to fine results.

Its next release is scheduled to be the airplane-set thriller "7500" from "The Grudge" director Takashi Shimizu, in August.

"In Terry and Wolfgang, we are fortunate to have two very skilled executives, each with terrific knowledge of the business and strong resumes of innovation," Moonves said in a statement. "They both possess the 'roll up your sleeves' attitude for making, acquiring and marketing quality films for a division that is small in size but laser-focused on assembling a mix of home-grown productions and acquisitions across a diverse range of genres."

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Photo: Terry Press and Wolfgang Hammer. Credit: CBS Films

CBS Chief Leslie Moonves collected nearly $70 million last year

Les Moonves

"Two Broke Girls" and one rich CEO.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves catapulted to the top of the media pay ladder in 2011 with a compensation package valued at $69.9 million, according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The 62-year-old executive's package jumped about 21% over the $57.7 million that he reaped in 2010, which included a $27.5-million bonus.

“CBS significantly outpaced the industry in 2011 in terms of shareholder return," the media company said in a statement. "In fact, the company is the second best performing stock in the entire S&P 500 since March of 2009... The vast majority of this year’s pay is once again keyed to performance-based measures, closely aligning the overall value of the compensation with that of the company’s shareholders.”

CBS stock has been on a tear, soaring 42% last year. The stock closed Friday at $32.50 a share, an eye-popping increase over the $4 a share that it was trading for in 2009, following the market collapse. Investors have bid up the stock, in part, due to the anticipation that CBS will rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in political advertising dollars this year as candidates and political action committees try to influence the outcome of elections.

The company's assets include the CBS broadcast network, home to such hit shows as "Two Broke Girls," "NCIS" and "Survivor," local TV and radio stations and billboards. CBS also owns premium pay cable channel Showtime and Simon & Schuster publishing house.

Sumner Redstone, the executive chairman of CBS Corp., received compensation of $20.3 million in 2011. That means the 88-year-old mogul, who has been slowing down in recent years, collected more than $41 million in 2011 for his executive position at CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. (Redstone received $21 million as executive chairman of Viacom).

Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman made $43 million in 2011, considerably less than his 2010 package of $84.5 million.

Viacom and CBS traditionally lead the media pack because of the dual-stock structure of the two companies. Redstone controls nearly 80% of the voting stock, making it difficult for other shareholders to mount a successful protest over governance issues, including executive compensation.

Though not in the same stratosphere of Apple Inc.’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, whose compensation totaled $378 million in 2011, Moonves’ pay still is considerably higher than his peers in the media world. 

For example, Moonves received more than twice that of Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger, who collected $31.4 million in fiscal 2011, and nearly three times the amount of Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes, who took in $25.9 million.  Both Disney and Time Warner are much larger than CBS.

News Corp.’s Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch raked in $33.3 million in 2011 running his global empire.  Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav collected a package valued at $52.4 million last year.

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Photo: CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Credit: Peter Foley / Bloomberg

Mike Wallace: Newsman's death symbolizes passing of an era

Wallace

Mike Wallace, the 93-year-old pitbull of CBS' "60 Minutes," died this weekend in New Canaan, Conn. 

CBS announced his death Sunday morning by lauding Wallace's brazen brand of reporting, which "made his name synonymous with the tough interview -- a style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago."

More than any other broadcast network, CBS has been most closely associated with its broadcast news team, which over the years has boasted such heavyweights as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite as well as Wallace. Each of the newsmen helped define CBS as a beacon for serious journalism.

PHOTOS: Mike Wallace | 1918 - 2012

“All of us at CBS News and particularly at '60 Minutes' owe so much to Mike," Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and a longtime executive producer of "60 Minutes," said in a statement. "Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn’t be a '60 Minutes.' There simply hasn’t been another broadcast journalist with that much talent. It almost didn’t matter what stories he was covering, you just wanted to hear what he would ask next."

Wallace's tenacious spirit and blistering questions helped to build "60 Minutes" into a ratings juggernaut, and establish the program as the gold standard for broadcast journalism. "60 Minutes" has logged an unprecedented 23 seasons in Nielsen's annual ranking of 10 most popular programs.

The durability of "60 Minutes" proves that viewers continue to have an appetite for hard-hitting newscasts. The program still thrives in an era when the format that inspired it -- the once-a-week newsmagazine -- has lost relevance with the immediacy of the Internet.

VIDEO: Remembering Mike Wallace

Across America, newsroom leaders are struggling to redefine their magazines, newspapers and local TV and radio newscasts. They are doing so amid dramatically shrinking resources and the reality that readers and viewers probably already saw or heard a snippet of the news elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the lure of celebrity news, which drives ratings and Internet traffic, has become an irresistible urge for many in the news business.

Fewer news outlets are practicing the brand of investigative journalism that Wallace and "60 Minutes" helped to define. It is easier and cheaper for news outlets to turn to talking heads to fill air time.

Wallace, in contrast, honed his interview style on the ABC network TV news program, “The Mike Wallace Interview.” He also experimented on a local New York television guest show called “Night Beat.”  

"Wallace’s relentless questioning of his subjects proved to be a compelling alternative to the polite chit-chat practiced by early television hosts," CBS said in its statement.

Wallace's last appearance on television was in January 2008. His sit-down interview on "60 Minutes" with baseball pitching legend Roger Clemens, who stood accused of using steroids, made front-page news.  It was a fitting finale that served to underscore Wallace's legacy.

CBS strives to maintain its edge in hard-news reporting. The network is revamping its "CBS This Morning" program this year with the installation of Charlie Rose, a move to inject a more serious tone.  CBS News chief Fager believes that viewers still care about news with substance. 

Wallace's passing should inspire others in the news business to consider that, too. 

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 -- Meg James

Photos: Mike Wallace, right, is shown in 1968 with "60 Minutes" co-anchor Harry Reasoner, left, and the show's creator, Don Hewitt. Credit: CBS News archives

Oprah Winfrey acknowledges her OWN mistakes

Getprev[1]
Oprah Winfrey said Monday that her cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, has been a much tougher slog than she expected.

"Had I known it was this difficult, I might have done something else," Winfrey said during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" with Charlie Rose and Gayle King, who is Winfrey's best friend. 

"I didn't think it would be easy, but if I knew then what I know now, I might have made some different choices," Winfrey said.  "If I were writing a book about it, I could call it '101 Mistakes.' "

PHOTOS: 25 great "Oprah" moments

Rose asked Winfrey to name five miscalculations. The top mistake, Winfrey said, was that OWN launched in Los Angeles in January 2011, well before the network was ready. At the time, she was consumed with wrapping up her hugely successful syndicated talk show in Chicago, which taped its finale last May.  Winfrey said she advocated for a small launch of the channel, without much press or promotion, but soon the publicity machine had kicked in and the expectations for the channel soared to lofty levels.

OprahDiscovery Communications Inc., which owns 50% of OWN, has spent more than $312 million to get the struggling channel off the ground. The channel has been averaging fewer than 300,000 people in prime-time, according to ratings agency Nielsen. 

"It was like having the wedding before you were ready, and walking down the aisle saying, oooh, should we really be doing this?" Winfrey said. 

"But the invitations were out," chimed in King, who ditched her daytime talk show on OWN last year for the much bigger platform of CBS News.  (Winfrey later in the interview said she was thrilled that King, who has been her friend for more than 25 years, was given the opportunity at CBS).

Winfrey said it was "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels who told her that she "had no idea" what she was getting into, and that building a new channel would be difficult. Some people would be rooting for her to fail.

For the first time in many years, the press surrounding Winfrey has been decidedly negative. Co-host Rose said that was a departure from previous press coverage: "You've been so loved, such an icon, you could do no wrong." 

There have been days, Winfrey conceded, that she was ready to throw in the towel. She said she would have been happy to sit under a tree with her beloved dogs and read a book.  Those days were more frequent, she said, particularly in the last week as the bad press mounted. But Winfrey said that she is more encouraged by OWN's prospects and direction than she ever has been before. 

Television's former daytime queen was in New York to tape a live episode of "Oprah"s Lifeclass: The Tour" at Radio City Music Hall and, later in the week, for advertiser presentations. Unlike four years ago, Winfrey said doesn't expect to campaign heavily for the reelection of President Obama. Instead, she will be busy "trying to fix a network." 

"I'm a very driven person," Winfrey said. "I believe that I am here to fulfill a calling. That, because I am a female, who is African American, who has been so blessed in the world, there is never going to be a time to quit. I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do — that is, using my voice and using my life to try to inspire other people to live the best in theirs."

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 — Meg James

Photo: Oprah Winfrey at a Discovery Channel gathering in 2011. Credit: AP Photo/OWN, George Burns

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