In 2011, after 25 years, The Oprah Winfrey Show aired its final episode. For fans, it truly was the end of an era — one in which the wildly popular daytime talk series would ultimately be syndicated on over 200 US television stations and in over 100 countries globally. The eponymous host, Oprah Winfrey, had arguably become one of the most trusted voices in the world.
Since The Oprah Winfrey Show shuttered, it’s hard to say whether any other talk show has come close to filling the void for longtime Winfrey fans. The Ellen DeGeneres Show, now in its second decade on air, probably comes closest. Honestly, though, who doesn’t still wish they could have made it to one of the annual Oprah’s Favorite Things specials (and walked away with a ton of swag)?
So, what happened? It wasn’t as though Winfrey didn’t have a loyal viewer base. Here’s why the queen of daytime TV really decided to walk away from her hit series while still on the top.
It was just “time”
Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut. And Oprah Winfrey, more than most people, comes across as the type of person who honors that voice inside when it speaks to her. Such proved to be the case when it came to ending the show that had made her a household name.
In 2009, news broke that the show would stop running in 2011. In the spirit of honoring her abiding relationship with viewers, Winfrey tearfully addressed her impending exit. “Twenty-four years ago on Sept. 8, 1986, I went live from Chicago to watch the first national Oprah Winfrey Show. I knew then what a miraculous opportunity I had been given, but I certainly never could have imagined the yellow brick road of blessings that have led me here,” she told her audience (via ABC News).
“I love this show, this show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it’s time to say goodbye,” she added, further elaborating on the timing: “Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit. It’s the perfect number. It’s the exact right time.”
She had her OWN channel to worry about
The same year The Oprah Winfrey Show ended, Winfrey and Discovery Communication turned the Discovery Health Channel into an entirely new vehicle for Winfrey: OWN, or the Oprah Winfrey Network. However, the media mogul would soon find that success for OWN wasn’t guaranteed.
“Every story about OWN was that it was struggling,” Winfrey recalled to AARP in 2015. “I literally had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself to say, ‘Lord, what would you have me do?’ What I know for sure is that the only way to hold onto yourself is through a spiritual base — otherwise you lose it.”
And, well, someone must have heard Winfrey’s prayers. In 2013, she landed a must-watch interview with decorated cyclist Lance Armstrong in the wake of his performance-enhancing drug scandal. As predicted, the interview proved to be a huge ratings spike for the network and, in turn, major revenue catalyst. “We were mesmerized and riveted by some of his answers,” Winfrey said on CBS This Morning of the cyclist, who officially confirmed his use of the drugs (via ABC News).