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Oprah Looks Ahead to a Future in Cable

November 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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After 23 years as a daytime talk show legend, Oprah Winfrey has announced she will be ending her program to concentrate on a new cable channel that will bear her name. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: And now: Oprah makes a move.

Jeffrey Brown tells the story.

OPRAH WINFREY, “The Oprah Winfrey Show”: These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure.

JEFFREY BROWN: It was a pure Oprah moment this afternoon, as Oprah Winfrey announced that her phenomenally popular and successful daytime talk show will end in two years, after 25 seasons, and that she will concentrate on creating a new cable channel to be called — and this, too, is pure Oprah — the Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN.

OPRAH WINFREY: So, why walk away and make next season the last? Here’s 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. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit.

Welcome to the very first national “Oprah Winfrey Show”!

JEFFREY BROWN: With some seven million daily viewers, Winfrey’s show is the highest rated talk show in American television history, as well as the longest running on daytime TV.

She’s known for celebrity interviews, from Michael Jackson in 1993, to Sarah Palin just this week, for some wacky moments that enter popular cultural legend, and for regularly making her own story the focus of the program, as, in 1988, when she wheeled in a wagon loaded with fat to showcase her 67-pound weight loss.

But her program is only part of the multibillion-dollar Oprah media empire. Among other things, she’s also a successful TV producer, the force behind Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, and others, a magazine publisher — in 2004, she launched “O,” the Oprah magazine, which features her on the cover every week — and a movie producer of films, including “Precious,” which is just opening nationwide today.

OPRAH WINFREY: Everybody goes home with their own Burberry, people.

JEFFREY BROWN: Oprah the entertainer, worth some $2.7 billion, also notably got herself involved in politics, and, by all accounts, showed some of her larger influence when she publicly supported President Obama in last year’s campaign.

This afternoon, some faithful viewers we found at a Northern Virginia spa watched her announcement.

WOMAN: Oh, wow. I can’t even remember not watching Oprah. I can remember going home to get from high school and turn it on. And she was the nice alternative to Phil Donahue. She just connected with the people. And she wasn’t stuffy. And she had it there in the studio on it, but it also comes across the camera. And I think that takes a real talent.

JEFFREY BROWN: Oprah’s move to cable, a joint venture with Discovery Communications, will shake up the world of commercial TV, and represents a gamble that her audience will follow.