Following her success with People Are Talking, WLS-TV offered her a 30-minute segment – AM Chicago in 1984. The show gained immediate traction and shot up in the rating charts within a year. In 1986, upon the advice of renowned film critic Roger Ebert, the show was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show and was expanded into a 60-minute segment with the channel. This made her the first African-American woman to host a nationally-syndicated show and a millionaire at the age of 32. Her show ran for 25 years and still holds the record for the highest-rated American talk show on TV. The very same year, she was also nominated for an Academy Award for her work as a supporting character in The Color Purple.
The success and media attention that Winfrey gained from The Oprah Winfrey Show helped her catapult her career as an entrepreneur where she could leverage her brand name. In 1986, she founded her own production company, Harpo Inc., making her the first Black person and the third woman to own the controlling shares of a major studio.
In 1998, Winfrey co-founded Oxygen Media, a programming company geared towards women and also launched O, The Oprah Magazine in 2000. The latter is estimated to have generated over $1 billion in revenue over the next 15 years. In 2006, she further expanded her brand by launching a 24-hour Oprah radio channel on XM Satellite Radio in a deal worth $55 million.
In 2011, Oprah launched her own cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) as a joint venture with The Discovery Channel. She also bought a 10% stake in Weight Watchers in 2015 and still acts as their brand ambassador. In December 2020, she sold 24.5 % of her stake in OWN to Discovery worth over $36 million in stocks.
Additionally, the reinvestments of her profits from her show and films like The Color Purple, Beloved, and Selma, amount to approximately $2 billion.