Oprah Winfrey Calls it Quits, Prompts Speculation About a Replacement

The next queen of daytime: Katie Couric, Michelle Obama?

Nov. 20, 2009 — -- Oprah' Winfrey's impending announcement that she will end her wildly successful daytime talk show in 2011 is more than just a good-bye, 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" today. "The audience is just going to have to follow her, right?"

But where Winfrey will go from here remains to be seen. Winfrey 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 say, was "emotional, supportive and respectful."

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz told "Good Morning America" today 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."

That's not to say there aren't a few possibilities -- Kurtz threw out names like Ellen DeGeneres and Winfrey prodigy Dr. Mehmet Oz, both of whom already have their own daytime shows, as well as Katie Couric, whose contract with CBS ends in 2011.

Brown even suggested that Michelle Obama consider throwing her hat into the ring once the Obamas are out of the White House, saying she shares Winfrey's sense of warmth and empathy.

But for now, Kurtz said, Winfrey's planned departure will cause ripples that reach far beyond a saddened audience. He noted that CBS, the show's distributor, will likely take a hit, as well the network affiliates, mostly ABC, who rely on Winfrey's show for a "steroids like boost" into their local newscasts.

Winfrey had hinted to "Good Morning America" in September that this type of announcement could be forthcoming.

"I am literally in thoughtful prayer and consideration to continue to go ahead," she said shortly before the start of this year's season. "You'll be hearing about it before the end of the year."

Oprah Winfrey's Generation of Interviews, Show Extravaganzas

Winfrey had been invited into a generation of homes day after day, reaching 33 million viewers at her peak. She has been known for her exclusive interviews with celebrities and public figures as well as her seemingly endless energy as she promoted everything and anything that she believed would lead Americans to a better life.

"I do know a lot of women who make that date with Oprah every day," Brown said.

Her show, No. 1 in ratings for 23 consecutive seasons, has been seen in 145 countries.

In 1993 she landed an interview with Michael Jackson at his Neverland Ranch, yet in a retrospective show this year shortly after the icon's death, Winfrey admitted she struggled with parts of the interview and pointed out to viewers which of Jackson's answers made her squirm.

And the whole world's jaw dropped with hers when Tom Cruise infamously jumped on her couch in 2005, professing his love for actress Katie Holmes.

But she also tackled the tough stuff, confronting racists in the 1980s and inviting then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to talk to the people during his historic campaign in 2008.

She has shared her own history of abuse as she listened to others recount their own horrors. And she publicly shared her seemingly never-ending triumphs and defeat when it came to her fluctuating weight.

"She has kind of created the culture of sharing is caring. People feel they can go on her show and say things they don't want to say anywhere else," Brown said. "It's remarkable."

Her media empire has grown to include films, books, magazines and Web sites, in addition to her TV show. At one point, she was the world's only African-American billionaire, according to Forbes magazine

Winfrey, however, was never immune to mistakes and public gaffes. But they almost made her more endearing, Kurtz said, because she wasn't above admitting when she was wrong, such was the case in 2006 when she apologized to her audience for promoting author James Fry's "A Million Little Pieces" as a memoir when it was revealed that Fry fictionalized many of his accounts.

Brown also questioned Winfrey's fierce public support of Obama for president over then-candidate Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after years of promoting women's achievements.

That said, Brown added, "she really did help to change race relations in many ways in popular culture"

Harpo President Announces Oprah Winfrey's Departure in Letter to Staff

Thursday afternoon, Tim Bennett, president of Winfrey's Harpo production house, announced that Winfrey would confirm the news on Friday's edition of her show.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" will not move on to the cable Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN. Harpo has said that while it has projects in development, they are not announcing anything at this time.

Below, read the full text of Bennett's statement to stations across the country that carry Winfrey's show.

Dear Friends:

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.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Bennett

President, Harpo, Inc.