Rumors, rumors, rumors for weeks. And now confirmation: Oprah's ending her show in 2011.
Oprah is reportedly announcing live on Friday's show that she will end her rule of daytime TV talk at the close of her 25th season, on Sept. 9, 2011.
A statement from Harpo Productions president Tim Bennett was sent this evening to TV affiliates, saying:
Over the past several weeks, my team and I have had conversations with many of you to help address your questions about the future of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Of course, the one question we couldn't answer was the one that only Oprah could. And tomorrow, she will do just that.
But before she speaks to her loyal viewers, we wanted to share her decision first with you - our valued partners for more than two decades.
Tomorrow, Oprah will announce live on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that she has decided to end what is arguably one of the most popular, influential and enduring programs in television history. The sun will set on the "Oprah" show as its 25th season draws to a close on September 9, 2011.
We welcome you to share this news this evening with your colleagues and viewers. As we all know, Oprah's personal comments about this on tomorrow's live show will mark an historic television moment that we will all be talking about for years to come.
We want to thank you for the partnership and friendship we have shared over the years. Your invaluable support has helped us to create the phenomenon of the "Oprah Show" that we've all been so proud to be a part of for the last 24 years. My staff and I will be calling all of you directly tonight and tomorrow. We look forward to speaking with you.
And, if you think the last quarter century has been something, then "don't touch that dial" as together we plan to make history in the next 20 months...and beyond.
President, Harpo, Inc.
Staffers at Harpo were told in a meeting this afternoon. Severance packages were even discussed for various levels of service.
Now the question remains: Will she stay in Chicago?
Last week, rumors swirled that Oprah would be moving her show to Los Angeles, so she could be better located to oversee the launch of her upcoming cable channel, OWN. A Harpo spokesperson denied that report at the time.
MSNBC mentions unnamed sources saying "that Winfrey will host a new daily talk show on OWN, and will also host specials for the network." (This was reported on a blog earlier this month.) But no one yet is saying where that will take place.
The New York Times, however, reports that when Oprah informed her staff of the decision she said "she will not transfer the show to cable. She is expected to produce new programs for OWN, and may appear on some of them."
The timing of the move coincides with what was shaping up to be a tough renewal of syndication for "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Local affiliates, many of whom are suffering from decreased revenues, were beginning to balk at the show's high price tag -- especially since her ratings had begun to slip, giving them less bang for the Oprah buck (even though this week's Sarah Palin interview went through the roof).
The show's syndicator, CBS TV Distribution, also issued a statement this evening: "We have the greatest respect for Oprah and wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors. We know that anything she turns her hand to will be a great success. We look forward to working with her for the next several years and hopefully afterwards as well."
Earlier speculation and summation ...