Oprah Winfrey’s production company Harpo Films has signed an exclusive deal to develop and produce movies and miniseries for premium cable channel HBO.

The new three-year deal which begins in 2009 ends the long standing relationship Harpo Films has had with ABC that produced the Emmy-award winning films Tuesdays with Morrie and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Kate Forte, president of Harpo Films said, “it just seemed like a natural progression to move to HBO.”

“Over the last year, every time that I was bringing up projects to Oprah, every time she’d say ‘this is perfect for HBO,” Forte added.

Winfrey’s own channel, aptly named OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, is debuting next year but is expected to focus on non-scripted programming.

PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS

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First came RushmoreDrive touting itself as a Google for black people, and now there’s Blackbird, an internet browser catering to yep, you guessed it, black people.

Developed by 40A, Inc., Blackbird is a new internet browser powered by Mozilla, outfitted with web 2.0 features and a software application designed specifically for the African American community.

Do black people really need their own special internet browser, let alone a separate search engine?

Well, the folks at Blackbird think so and boast on their website that “browsing black is better.” They also cite this gem of a statistic: “[African Americans] are twice as likely to be among the first to discover new trends and use advanced technology compared to the general population.”

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Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Bob Johnson plans to reinvent the traditional broadcast model as he launches a new television network, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Johnson is teaming up with ION Media Networks to launch Urban Television, a network that will allow producers to buy blocks of airtime and sell their own advertising for a revenue split. The new network will serve the black, hispanic, gay and other minority communities.

“The intent is to do something really innovative and not duplicate what I did at BET or even the traditional broadcast model. I like the idea of companioning a broadcast concept with an interactive platform.” Johnson said.

Johnson is also developing the website Point of U, through his firm RLJ Companies, using a similar programming model.

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President-elect Barack Obama outlined his priorities in his first televised post-election interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes and spoke of his intent to restore a “sense of trust, transparency, openness in our financial system” and bringing back the “bond of trust between the presidency and the public” he thinks has been lost.

He also spoke about the current crisis in the auto industry, “it’s my belief that we need to provide assistance to the auto industry. But I think that it can’t be a blank check,” and stressed the importance of focusing on the mortgage situation and it’s impact on the economy.

Obama also addressed the comparisons in the press of today’s financial problems and his upcoming presidency with that of the early 1930s and former President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “What you see in FDR that I hope my team can– emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things,” he said.

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Michael Jackson has averted a foreclosure on his beloved Neverland Ranch by striking a deal with Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC. A grant deed for the ranch has been filed to transfer ownership of the ranch from the pop singer to the company.

It is interesting to note that Sycamore Valley Ranch Company LLC is a joint venture between Jackson and Colony Capital LLC; and Colony is the same company that stepped in to purchase Jackson’s loan earlier this year when he was in default of $24.5 million on the property.

Jackson purchased Neverland Ranch in 1998, which was then named Sycamore Vallery Ranch, and built an amusement park and a zoo on the estate. The singer had not resided at the ranch since his June 2005 child molestation trial.

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A recent Fortune magazine article profiled financial analyst Mellody Hobson as the one to watch and listen to expert of Wall Street.

As president of Ariel, the largest minority owned mutual fund company in America, Hobson’s “slow and steady value investing approach” is being touted as the voice of reason during these fast and furious financial times.

The product of a single mother in Chicago’s inner-city, 39 year-old Hobson is on a quest to increase financial awareness among everyone and most importantly among black people who have been reportedly underinvested in the stock market according to a study conducted by Ariel and Charles Schwab.

“I am trying to make the stock market a subject of dinner-table conversation in the black community, ” Hobson says.

Hobson boasts many admirers including CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz who describes her as being among “a select few that are professionally so strong and personally without fault, ” and director, producer George Lucas whom she is currently dating and can often be seen accompanying to red carpet events.

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As part of their five dollar footlong sandwich promotion, Subway has transformed Abraham Lincoln into a diamond earring-wearing, slang-spewing spokesperson.

The Subway website features the taglines “that’s somethin’ to holla about,” the image of Lincoln saying “five dolla footlong….that’s some serious value son,” and prompts users to “give your friends a customized shoutout” by emailing or texting a holla’.

Jared’s sandwich shop of choice is clearly trying to reach a younger, hipper, and more ethnic demographic with its hip-hop influenced campaign. And while their five dollar revamp is not as offensive as the Obama bucks, it is being criticized by the black community for promoting stereotypes of urban and street culture.

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