Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

The End of Oprah's Reign?

There's no handbook for how to abdicate, but Oprah Winfrey offered up a pretty good model for monarchs who don't wish to go quietly. Employing her house blend of sentimentality, determination, pride and genuine emotion, the queen of all media announced that the 25th season of The Oprah Winfrey Show would be her last. "This show has been my life. And I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye," she said on her show, a tear brimming from each eye. "Twenty-five years feels right in my bones." Those might be her business bones she's feeling. As network-TV profits, power and growth drain toward the cable channels, Winfrey is shifting her attention to the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN, which she plans to launch with Discovery Communications in 2011. The question is, Who is Oprah without Oprah? The show was monolithic in a way that's no longer possible, even for a mogul like Winfrey. She plans to "appear on and participate in" programs on OWN, but nobody is saying whether she'll have a show of her own. Bereft of her royal presence, will people care what Oprah wants them to watch?