Weight Watchers' Oprah Deal Brought 1 Billion Free Impressions

Company Got Surge In Free Publicity From Deal

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Credit: courtesy Weight Watchers International

How much free advertising did Oprah Winfrey's deal with Weight Watchers bring? More than 1 billion media impressions, the company said.

Following Ms. Winfrey's agreement to invest in Weight Watchers International Inc. and endorse the program in October, the company got a surge of free publicity, according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday. Each impression represents a time that a viewer was exposed to a mention of Weight Watchers.

The company is counting on the Winfrey accord to help turn around its ailing business, but it's hard to tell how much of a financial impact the deal has had so far. Weight Watchers posted a loss of 3 cents a share in the fourth quarter, excluding some items. Analysts had estimated a gain of 2 cents on average. The program's active subscribers fell 4.8% in the period from a year earlier -- though that was less of a decrease than the company experienced in the third quarter.

As part of their agreement, Weight Watchers sold roughly a tenth of the company to Ms. Winfrey for about $43.2 million. The company also granted Ms. Winfrey the right to buy 3.5 million shares at a price of $6.97 apiece.

The stock closed at $12.56 on Wednesday, valuing her 10% stake at about $80 million. That means Ms. Winfrey has almost doubled her investment, not including the options.

Weight Watchers' filing also revealed how much the company itself has slimmed down over the past year. It had about 19,000 employees as of Jan. 2, down from 21,000 a year earlier.

~~ Bloomberg News

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