Chicago's Nate Berkus to get own show

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Posted by Bud on December 17, 2009 at 20:57:50:

Designer on "Oprah" to Be Host of a Show

Published: December 15, 2009

Oprah is leaving network television but her television progeny keep coming.

Harpo Productions, the producing arm of Ms. Winfrey's television empire, will introduce, probably in the fall, the next Oprah-originated daytime talk host in Nate Berkus, the decorator and design expert who has been a staple on Ms. Winfrey's show for the last six years.

The move comes only four weeks after Ms. Winfrey announced she intends to step away from daytime talk on broadcast television in 2011, starting a frenzy of speculation about potential replacements.

Harpo and Sony Pictures Television will announce on Wednesday that they are creating a show for Mr. Berkus and that they will begin to test interest from local television stations for a possible start of "The Nate Berkus Show" next September.

"Nate is a bona fide star," said Erik Logan, one of the two presidents of Harpo Productions.

"We know our viewers love him."

Mr. Berkus, like other Oprah-spawned hosts before him (they include Dr. Phil McGraw and Rachael Ray), built his profile by regular appearances with Ms. Winfrey, where he has discussed home and fashion design.

Though she labeled the informal tryout format "Oprah's laboratory," Sheri Salata, the other president of Harpo, said the emergence of another potential host through steady exposure to Ms. Winfrey's audience does not follow any specific plan, but is instead "a very organic process."

John Weiser, the president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television, said the ratings backed up the decision. "When Nate appears with Oprah, the ratings spike," he said. Specifically, Mr. Weiser said the total audience rating increased by an average of 13 percent when Mr. Berkus joined Ms. Winfrey, and by 20 percent in the core constituency for Ms. Winfrey, women viewers 25 to 54 years old.

Mr. Weiser said Sony had been testing the waters with the Berkus project and had received strong feedback from both station managers and advertisers. He said that a show with so many design elements being discussed would have natural appeal for a wide range of advertisers.

Mr. Logan said the announcement of Mr. Berkus's show was evidence of the continued commitment by Ms. Winfrey's company to stay in the talk show and syndication business on broadcast television, even though she herself will be leaving that arena to work on her own cable channel, OWN. "Harpo Productions is here to stay," Mr. Logan said.

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