Oprah Winfrey speaks in Whitesboro, N.J. Satuday, Aug. 30, 2008. Winfrey is scheduled to be the keynote speaker Saturday at the annual festival in Whitesboro, a tiny, rural community founded in 1901 as a settlement for blacks leaving the South. (AP Photo/MJ Schear)
Kate Forte, head of Harpo Films, said Tuesday that Winfrey's company wanted to make a more eclectic mix of programming than was available on broadcast TV, working with people who did not like the restrictions of commercial interruptions. She would not detail any of the future projects.
Winfrey has worked at ABC for 15 years, and her "Oprah Winfrey Presents" series has focused largely on movies positive or inspirational in tone. The most recent was an adaptation from a Mitch Albom book, "For One More Day," about a drunk about to commit suicide who is saved by the ghost of his mother.
Winfrey's movie starring Halle Berry, "Their Eyes Were Watching God," was the most-watched television movie in six years at the time of its 2005 airing on ABC.
ABC wanted to extend the deal, but Harpo Films believed HBO was a better fit, Forte said.
"This is really a dream come true for us," she said.
The premium cable network doesn't usually make such individual deals with production companies, but network co-president Richard Plepler said that "Oprah personifies excellence and quality in everything she does."
Neither side would discuss financial terms of the deal. They said some of the projects on which Harpo is working would become known very soon.
Winfrey has not discussed acting in any of the projects for HBO, the executives said.
The HBO deal has nothing to do with Winfrey's agreement with Discovery Communications for OWN — the Oprah Winfrey Network — that will debut next year, replacing the Discovery Health network.