Oprah’s Announcement: ‘After Much Prayer and Months of Careful Thought…’

By Chris Ariens 

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At the end of her show this morning, Oprah Winfrey made it official telling her audience, “After much prayer and months of careful thought I have decided that next season – season 25 – will be the last season of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ And over the next couple of days you may hear a lot of speculation in the press about why I am making this decision now, and that will mostly be conjecture.”

Oprah then teared up as she talked about the show’s roots. “These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure,” said a choked-up Oprah. “So why walk away and make next season the last? Here is the real reason. I love this show. This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it’s time to say goodbye.”

The news of Oprah’s departure was first reported late yesterday on the Websites of the TV stations on which her show airs.

As for the impact on those stations, primarily ABC affiliates, but NBC and CBS too, the NYTimes spoke with Larry Gerbrandt, an analyst for the firm Media Valuation Partners, who says “any show that ABC comes up with to replace her will not draw anything near the ratings guarantee they could count on with Oprah. At least for the first year, ABC is going to take a serious hit.”

And not just ABC affiliates but the network too. Oprah feeds in to the afternoon newscasts and those afternoon newscasts feed in to “World News with Diane Sawyer.”

This morning, Sawyer now in her final weeks anchoring “Good Morning America,” called Oprah’s departure “the end of an era.”

So now the two-year swan song begins. What will Oprah’s departure really mean to the stations? Who gets the Oprah exit interview? Diane? Barbara? Katie? And who will be the next Oprah? That question we’re putting to you:

Which TVNewser is the next Oprah?(polls)

(Special thanks to TVNewser Chicago contributor Alissa Krinsky, and TiVo, for the Oprah quotes)