Forbes: Beck made more money, but Winfrey still in power
They both left popular talk shows on mainstream TV, developed networks using their initials and carry the job title of “media personality.”
Yet conservative firebrand Glenn Beck found a way to make more money in the past year with his Internet-based news and commentary company than his politically polar opposite Oprah Winfrey earned through her media empire.
Forbes this week ranked Beck, 49, of Dallas as the 34th most powerful celebrity in the world, a drop in overall influence from last year. Driven by good press and social media mentions, Winfrey, 59, of Montecito, Calif., regained the top spot on the list after falling to No. 2 last year.
The $90 million that Forbes said Beck made from his website The Blaze and its related ventures put him at No. 7 on the celebrities' money list, seven spots ahead of Winfrey and the $77 million she made.
“That's a surprise because from what I hear, (Internet-based news sites) are not making much money. The Huffington Post, they said that might bankrupt AOL,” said Timothy Groseclose, a UCLA professor of political science and economics and author of “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.”
“Economists will sometimes say, ‘If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?' Well, Glenn Beck has an answer,” Groseclose said.
Beck bucked dire predictions that his relevance and bank accounts would wither when he left Fox News in 2011. Many observers noted he was leaving an established, traditional network with millions of viewers for the financially unproven waters of Internet TV.
He started a subscription-based, online TV network called GBTV, which last year merged with his website The Blaze to become a single multiplatform media company with an estimated 300,000 subscribers who pay about $100 a year.
Over the past year, The Blaze went live on Dish Network, SiriusXM radio and other systems.
“Love him or hate him, Glenn Beck has transcended television and proven that with a big enough personality, you can outplay big media,” Forbes wrote.
Beck appeared to lose points in the Forbes power ranking because of fewer mentions in the press and lower visibility on social media. He still outpaced fellow conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh (No. 37) and Sean Hannity (No. 72) and one of his biggest critics, Comedy Central host Jon Stewart (No. 57).
Beck even made more bucks than famous money-machines Lady Gaga, Donald Trump and LeBron James.
“If you want to make a lot of money, you own your own company,” Groseclose said. “The person who demonstrated that the best was Oprah, who a decade ago formed her own company.”
Winfrey overcame a tough year since leaving her famous TV show in 2012 to grab the No. 1 spot despite an $88 million drop in earnings, Forbes noted.
OWN — The Oprah Winfrey Network — has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since 2008. Forbes expects it could turn a profit by the end of this year.
She scored huge interviews recently on OWN with Lance Armstrong and Rihanna.
“Winfrey also earns from an empire that includes her O magazine, talk shows from protégés like Rachael Ray and Dr. Phil and a network on SiriusXM satellite radio,” Forbes wrote.
David Conti is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.