Who Wants To Be A Millionaire axed as Chris Tarrant departs hit show after 15 years

It used to be ITV's flagship quiz show

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is to be axed after 15 years on the air following Chris Tarrant's announcement that he is to step down as host.

In its late 90s heyday, the programme was one of ITV's flagship shows, attracting up to 19 million viewers. Phrases such as "Phone a friend" and "Ask the audience" entered the popular lexicon and production company Celador sold the format to 160 countries worldwide.

The show even inspired Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire.

But now 67-year-old Tarrant has admitted: "It's time to take a break."

In a statement, Tarrant said: "It's been a huge part of my life for 15 years and I've loved every minute of it, but it is time for me to move on from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

"It's been the most remarkable journey and I consider myself very fortunate to have been associated with Millionaire from its inception.

"ITV have been fantastic in their support from day one and to see its huge success has been thrilling."

ITV has announced that there will be no further specials beyond those the broadcaster has already planned.

Since the show began, there have been five million-pound winners, the first of whom was Judith Keppel in 2000. Now, however, the show focuses on celebrity guests and fundraising specials rather than ordinary members of the public.

Tarrant continued: "The calibre of the celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, George Michael, Sir Alex Ferguson, Simon Cowell, Sir Tim Rice, Sir Terry Wogan, Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, etc, is just one indication of how much this show has touched a nerve with everybody.

"But of course so much more rewarding for all of us has been, not just the celebrities or even the million-pound winners, but all of the ordinary men and women whose lives have been changed - sometimes forever - by being on the show.

"Thank you all for sitting opposite me. I am privileged to have been a part of it, but do now feel that it is time for me to call it a day.

"I've worked ridiculously hard these last few years and to quote myself, 'it's time to take a break'."

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