Oprah Winfrey spoke directly to viewers about her reasons for ending The Oprah Winfrey Show at a live taping Friday.
"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," the daytime queen said. "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.
"So why walk away and make next season the last? Here is the real reason: I love this show," Winfrey said. "This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it's time to say good-bye. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones, and it feels right in my spirit. It's the perfect number - the exact right time. So I hope that you will take this 18-month ride with me right through to the final show."
Winfrey didn't specifically address in her remarks what her plans are after the show comes to an end, but a press release from Harpo Productions stated that she "plans to appear and participate in new programming for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a 24-hour cable network that reflects her vision, values and interests." The launch of that project has now been set for January 2011, according to the release.
Winfrey thanked her viewers for sticking with her for almost a quarter of a century. "These years with you, our viewers, have enriched my life beyond all measure," she said. "And you all have graciously invited me into your living rooms, into your kitchens, and into your lives. And for some of you long time Oprah viewers, you have literally grown up with me we've grown together.
"So I just wanted to say that whether you've been here with me from the beginning or you came on board last week, I want you all to know that my relationship with you is one that I hold very dear. And your trust in me, the sharing of your precious time every day with me has brought me the greatest joy I have ever known."
Winfrey said she and her producers are going to use the holiday break to brainstorm ideas for the second half of this season as well as a final season that will "knock your socks off."
"So, 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, joy-filled moment with you," Winfrey said.