It was announced today that Oprah Winfrey has signed a deal with XM Satellite Radio to launch a new channel in September called Oprah & Friends. The three-year, $55 million contract will provide XM listeners with programming on health and fitness, and the type of self-improvement topics that Winfrey has become well-known for by her legions of fans. Content will be provided by many of the same health and fitness experts and lifestyle gurus who appear regularly in the pages of O, The Oprah Magazine and frequently visit Winfrey’s television show.
As the battle for market share continues unabated between XM and its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, the acquisition of talent is the most visible way in which stations attempt to lure listeners. Winfrey joins radio personality Howard Stern (who has signed on with Sirius) and music icon Bob Dylan as some of the more noteworthy talents to jump on the satellite radio bandwagon. As Craig Lyndall reported here on Blogcritics just a few days ago, XM seems to be leading the technology race at the moment, with the introduction of two new radios, due to hit the market this spring, that are improvements over what is currently available from either company.
Winfrey, of course, is the head of a well-branded media empire that has, up until now, included television, film (as an actress and a producer), print media (she publishes two magazines and has co-authored several books), and the Internet. XM Satellite Radio, with over 6 million subscribers, has a bigger share of the market than Sirius, with only 3 million subscribers.
With subscriptions to both services costing roughly the same, and each service providing listeners with well over 100 channels of programming, content will clearly be a major factor in choosing which service to subscribe to, and big-name talent in all areas will be a draw. It will be interesting to see if Winfrey’s Midas touch enables XM to pull out even more of a lead.