Why is Oprah Winfrey leaving her iconic talk show? For her, the answer is simple: the time is right.
"I love this show, this show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye," Winfrey told her studio audience during Friday's live edition of "Oprah." "Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit. It's the perfect number. It's the exact right time."
With her eyes tearing and her voice breaking, Winfrey thanked the millions of people who've followed her over the years.
"Twenty-four years ago on Sept. 8, 1986, I went live from Chicago to watch the first national 'Oprah Winfrey Show,'" she said. "I knew then what a miraculous opportunity I had been given, but I certainly never could have imagined the yellow brick road of blessings that have led me here.
"These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond measure," she continued. "You all have graciously invited me into your living rooms, into your kitchens, into your lives."
"I just wanted to say that whether you've been here with me from the beginning or if you came on board last week, I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold very dear," Winfrey went on. "Your trust in me has brought me the greastest joy I have ever known."
Winfrey asserted that she and her show will only pick up steam between now and Sept. 9, 2011, when she goes off the air.
"We are going to knock your socks off," she said. "The countdown to the end of the Oprah Winfrey show starts now. And until that day, in 2011, when it ends, I intend to soak up every meaningful, joyful moment with you."
Winfrey's tearful thank you came less than 24 hours after Tim Bennett, president of her Harpo production house, broke the news of "Oprah's" finale to the TV stations that carry it. But Winfrey's 2011 goodbye marks more than just the end of a super successful TV series; it's the end of an era.
"She has been one of the family for Americans for 25 years," Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast told "Good Morning America" Friday. "The audience is just going to have to follow her, right?"
Where Winfrey will go from here remains to be seen. She notified her staff late Thursday afternoon that she would be ending her talk show on Sept. 9, 2011, just as the show will mark 25 years on the air. The meeting, insiders said, was "emotional, supportive and respectful."
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz told "Good Morning America" Friday that while the natural reaction is to consider a replacement in the daytime talk community, it won't be as simple as finding another charismatic personality.
"She has this trust, this intimate connection with the audience because she talks about her own mistakes" and invites others to do the same, he said. "I'm not sure Oprah can be replaced."