"The sun will set on the Oprah show as its 25th season draws to a close on Sept. 9, 2011," said Tim Bennett, the president of Harpo Productions, Winfrey's production company, in a message to affiliates. CBS Television Distribution, Oprah's long-time distributor, said in a release: "We have the greatest respect for Oprah and wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors."
While Winfrey broke the news to staffers on Thursday, what hasn't been revealed is whether her show will move to the upcoming new OWN network -- a partnership between Winfrey and Discovery Communications.
David Zaslav, president and chief executive of Discovery Communications, has been blunt about his desire to have Winfrey as a key on-air programming ingredient for the network -- a channel that has had major delays since it was announced. OWN is now expected to launch in January 2011.
Winfrey departure has the speculated for weeks, and especially after Lisa Erspamer, a key show producer for the past three years, had been named chief creative officer of OWN recently.
Winfrey's Monday through Friday show was one of the few first-run syndicated series that charge significant license fees from TV stations. For many stations, the afternoon talk show was deemed a lost leader in recent years because of those high fees. But all this was outweighed by Winfrey's significant lead-in viewership -- she gave TV stations early news TV programming.
Had Winfrey gone on to renew her another syndication program deal with current distributor CBS Television Distribution -- or perhaps Sony Pictures Television -- her licenses fees would have been lowered, according to many executives.
Winfrey's confirmed departure now opens up valuable time periods on TV stations that haven ot been available for almost thirty years. Key time slots are on ABC's owned-and-operated top ten market outlets where Winfrey's show has resided for over two decades.