Can Oprah Winfrey squash Conan O'Brien AND Jon Stewart?
Oprah Winfrey just announced that she'll launch a new one-hour evening show, "Oprah's Next Chapter," on her new TV network OWN next year. That means she'll be eligible to compete at the prime-time Emmys. She may decide not to join. She quit the Daytime Emmys in 2000, allegedly because she'd won so many times that she wanted to step aside and give the glory to other shows. Granted, she had won nine times earlier (the most in Emmy history), but Oprah also had just lost twice in a row to Rosie O'Donnell's program when she pulled her show from competition. Some Emmy-watchers believed that Oprah was so furious about the double loss that she refused to endure defeat again.
Whatever the truth was about what happened to Oprah at the Daytime Emmys, she may choose to join the Prime-Time Emmy derby in order to hike the industry profile of her new show. If so, she may not have to worry too much about Conan O'Brien as competition.
It took Conan O'Brien a full decade of hosting "Late Night" before the show landed its first Emmy bid in the variety series category in 2003. It contended unsuccessfully in that race for five years, always losing to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which O'Brien will now face head-on in the ratings.
"The Daily Show" will surely turn out to be Oprah's toughest Emmy rival. Over all, it's won best variety show for seven years in a row. Last year, Jon Stewart was asked by reporters if he plans to "pull an Oprah" and pull his show from the Emmy race so other shows can win. He roared, "No!"
Photo: Oprah appeared as a presenter on the Emmys in 2008. Credit: ATAS.