Oprah Launches Long Goodbye

Talk TV queen announces departure this afternoon

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Oprah will announce today that her 25-year run will end in 2011.

    O-k. Tell us why you did it.

    Oprah Winfrey has set the stage for another must-see daytime TV moment today, when the reigning queen of talk, business mogul and international phenomenon will explain to millions of devoted fans why she’s decided to pull the plug on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” after 25 seasons when her contract ends in Dec. 2011.

    After news broke Thursday that Winfrey’s team had begun calling stations to let them know them know of the decision, her production company said Winfrey would announce the final date for her show on today’s live broadcast, The Associated Press reported.

    A Harpo spokeswoman would not speculate on Winfrey's future plans, though experts predict fans haven’t seen the last of her on the small screen.

    "I don't believe this is the last we'll be seeing of Oprah's talk show -- I think she'll be doing it on [OWN]," said industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek, referring to the much-delayed network Winfrey will launch with Discovery Communications in 2011.

    CBS, which distributes her current show to more than 200 markets, where an estimated 42 million viewers a week tune in, said the network still wished to find a way to do business with Winfrey – the networks could produce a show in Los Angeles together, according to the AP.

    “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has topped the charts and had its finger on the cultural pulse of the nation for years with celebrity “gets,” candid discussions about uncomfortable subjects and giveaways like the “car” one in 2007, where 300 members of her audience walked away with keys to shiny new wheels.

    Winfrey has used the show as a successful springboard for her “book club,” while also launching the TV careers for now ubiquitous figures like Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.

    Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres credited her colleague in a clip released Thursday with paving the way for her own successful daytime TV career.

    "I don't think I could be here without her. I think she has blazed a trail," DeGeneres said, adding that she’d received a personal call from Winfrey before news broke. "She is an amazing woman. She will always be the Queen of daytime television and she also said she is leaving me all of her money. I was like, thanks Oprah, thank you," she said.

    Not all publicity has been good over the years. Newsweek magazine lead with a critical story called “Why Health Advice on ‘Oprah’ Could Make You Sick” on its cover. Winfrey was also burned when book club author James Frey revealed that he had made up part of his “A Million Little Pieces” memoir.   

    But since kicking off her latest season with a giant party on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue accompanied by thousands of fans, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” has continued to mine ratings gold, most recently with Winfrey's interview with Sarah Palin.

    Reaction to the end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" – and theories about why she’s jumping ship and what it means to Chicago, the city she has championed for years and unsuccessfully advocated should host the Olympics -- are pouring in.

    “You're an institution. You've taken a talk show and used it to change how people interact in our society,” wrote Ernest Wilkins on Chicagonow.com, speaking for many.  

    Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley, had a different take. He blamed local media for “picking on” Winfrey’s decision to host her Michigan Avenue party – even though she was paying for it.

    "You keep kicking people, and people will leave. Simple as that," he said.