Final chat tonight as Oprah says goodbye
THE final edition of 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' is to be broadcast tonight from Chicago, leaving American television executives panicked and the 464 people who produce the programme looking for work.
Ms Winfrey (57), widely regarded as one of the world's most influential women, is retreating to focus on OWN, her new cable TV network.
"I'm not going away," she said this week. "I'm just changing."
With an estimated fortune of €2bn, Ms Winfrey is among the world's richest self-made women and was the first black female billionaire.
Since 1986, her talk show has become a confession box for countless celebrities and for Ms Winfrey herself, whose yo-yoing weight and personal difficulties have captivated her fans.
"People trust her opinion more than they trust their own," said Susan Harrow, author of a book on the show. David Hiltbrand, a TV critic, calls her "perhaps the most influential personality in TV history".
Her 'Oprah's Book Club' segment, which began in 1996, is estimated to have propped up the publishing industry with 55 million extra book sales.
And Ms Winfrey can also claim to have anointed the US president. Her 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama is thought to have earned him an extra million votes in the Democratic primary contest.
Aptly, her final episode is to feature the most keenly-sought interviewee of the moment: Maria Shriver, the recently estranged wife of actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Advertisers have paid $1m (€700,000) per half-minute to have their brands appear in its advertising breaks -- a rate usually associated with major sporting events.
After a two-night farewell spectacular in a 13,000-capacity stadium, with appearances from Madonna, Beyonce, Tom Cruise and dozens more, tonight's episode will return to its intimate format. (© Daily Telegraph, London)