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Oprah Says $5M an Episode for ‘Underground’ Is Too Expensive for OWN; BET’s CEO Concurs

“Underground” fans won’t be pleased to hear what Oprah Winfrey has to say about picking up the series. (WGN)

When WGN America decided to cancel its hit series “Underground” last week, fans were hopeful that OWN would pick it up for a third season. However, founder Oprah Winfrey reportedly can’t make it happen.

“I can’t afford ‘Underground’,” Winfrey told The Undefeated at a Tuesday, June 6, press event for OWN’s “Queen Sugar.” “It costs twice as much to make [as “Queen Sugar”]. As a matter of fact, my dear friend [“Underground” executive producer] John Legend called me, but we’d already been talking about how we could make it work … it’s like $5 million an episode — can’t afford it. It’s not cheap. And I think it’s because it’s a period piece.”

Legend urged fans of the series, which follows Georgian slaves as they escape along the Underground Railroad, to share the network or streaming service on which they wanted to see “Underground” continue.

BET also was considering picking up the series but decided not to, which chairman and CEO Debra Lee explained at The Paley Center Friday, June 2.

“We had conversations before it was announced that WGN was canceling it,” she said. “We couldn’t work out a deal. … So, I don’t know if they already had a deal and were using us as a stalking horse or what. … But it’s a wonderful program and I was very interested in it. So, I think it’s going to show up somewhere, I just don’t know where yet.”

Hulu has streaming rights to “Underground” and is rumored to be considering it, Deadline reported.

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