By Jonathan Stemple
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Oprah Winfrey Company is suing the creators of the “Oprahdemics” podcast, claiming the show is misleading listeners into thinking it was sponsored or approved by it.
In a complaint filed late Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Winfrey’s Harpo Inc said it is not seeking profits or damages from “Oprahdemics” creators Kelly Carter-Jackson and Leah Wright-Rigor, nor is it trying to stop the podcast.
Instead, it wants to change the name, saying that podcasts and related live events are diluting the Harpo “Oprah” and “O” brands, and wrongly capitalizing on the goodwill that Winfrey spent decades building.
Simply being associated with the “Opera” brand often results in an “exponential” jump in sales, said Harpo, known as the “Opera effect” or the “O-factor.”
“Oprahdemics” describes Jackson and Regor as historians and friends who analyze iconic episodes of the Winfrey talk show and discuss the cultural impact of the “talking queen.”
In a statement, co-producer Jodi Avergan, whose company Roulette Productions is also one of the defendants, called Operamix “a journalistic exploration by history professors and loyal fans of Oprah Winfrey.”
Roulette, he said, “has been working with the team at Harpo for some time – while I was really surprised by this, we hope to sort it out.”
In an April interview with NPR, Regor described Winfrey as an institution.
“This is a woman, black, who has dominated many spaces and arenas” since the 1980s, she said. “I say it in a way that does not excuse … constructive criticism or feedback or anything like that, but rather as an acknowledgment of … the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Oprah Winfrey brand.”
Winfrey, 68, is also an actress and philanthropist who has tapped her namesake television talk show in Chicago, which ran nationally from 1986 to 2011, into a media and business empire. She has a net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The case is Harpo Inc v. Jackson et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-06787.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stemple in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)