Oprah’s Harpo Films Drops ABC For HBO

Move over ABC. Harpo Films, the original film division of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, has found an edgier, less commercially-cluttered platform for its movies: HBO. The AP says Harpo Films and HBO have brokered a three-year deal to make movies, documentaries and TV series. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Karen Forte, president and executive producer of Harpo Films said the decision was influenced by two key points:

— The company wanted to do a more “eclectic” mix of programming than was available on broadcast TV

— Harpo Films wanted to work without the constraints of traditional commercial interruptions

LA-based Harpo Films has released a number of films under the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” banner, including an adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry, as well as the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Jack Lemmon flick Tuesdays with Morrie. ABC wanted to extend the deal, but Forte said the company felt HBO was a better choice. The new deal may signal a shift toward product placement or other sponsorship models, as well as less family-friendly fare. It’s Oprah’s second large-scale deal with a cable network: OWN — the Oprah Winfrey Network — is slated to replace Discovery (NSDQ: DISAB) Communications’ Discovery Health network next year.