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Oprah signs off after 25-year TV run

Jeff Horwich May 24, 2011

Oprah signs off after 25-year TV run

Jeff Horwich May 24, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: And here we are. Almost at the day. After 18 months of build-up, a final visit from Tom Cruise and one last car giveaway, Oprah’s taking herself off the air tomorrow. After 25 seasons, she transcends mere celebrity. She’s an instant tastemaker, the world’s richest entertainer, and a brand unto herself. Which is why, paradoxically, this farewell moment isn’t just all about Oprah.

Marketplace’s Jeff Horwich has more.

Jeff Horwich: If Oprah had wanted to stretch things out another year, she could have. If she’d wanted to go another 100 years, scientists would have found a way. But the end is here, and it is epic. Fans are emoting on YouTube.

YouTube video: You have meant so much to me, and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

But with an event this big, regular Oprah fans are just the tip of the O-berg.

Here’s Adam Armbruster, a television and retail consultant.

Adam Armbruster: It also creates watercooler conversation audience, I call it halo audience. It’s people that normally wouldn’t watch her, and they get sucked into the hype — and there’s massive hype going on right now. Try to watch any show tonight, any entertainment program — it’s all over it.

Oprah news montage: Oprah taping two of her final shows yesterday. Oprah’s goodbye is so big, they couldn’t do it at her studio. Continuing now, day two of our Oprah quiz. We love you Oprah!

“Entertainment Tonight” and its offspring have been feeding off the Oprah countdown for weeks. But Armbruster says network and local newscasts are also hitting it hard to pull in viewers during the critical end-of-May period when audience numbers are measured. Then there are the companies hoping for an economic bounce if they can share in the glow. The cost for a 30-second ad on the finale is unheard of for daytime TV. Here’s how Oprah might deliver the news…

The Oprah Winfrey Show: One. Million. Dollars. What?

I know — for comparison, ads on the last Superbowl were $3 million.

Dori Molitor runs a marketing consultancy called WomanWise. She says advertising on Oprah’s final show is valuable beyond just the raw viewer numbers.

Dori Molitor: Quite frankly, I think that’s secondary to the main reason they want to be there. I can’t think of another environment that would be more uplifting, more positive — putting their brand there, brands are hoping to have a halo effect.

There’s that halo again. As “Saint Oprah” ascends to her next plane of existence, who can fill the economic void left by her show? Adam Armbruster says some industries, like publishing, are significantly Oprah-powered.

Armbruster: She can hold a book up to the screen and it becomes a best seller. Tell me: Who else has the power to do that?

Dr. Oz? Ellen? Katie Couric? Oprah has declined to bestow her halo — or her time slot — on any one successor. And the TV audience has splintered during Oprah’s 25-year reign. It’ll be more difficult to amass her kind of power to sway industries. Partly the void left by the Oprah show will be filled by, Oprah. As she attends more to her struggling TV network, she’ll be working levers behind the curtain to keep that significant Oprah-fied economy within her orbit.

I’m Jeff Horwich for Marketplace.

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