US talk show queen Oprah to end show in 2011

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International talk show superstar Oprah Winfrey, who rose from a childhood of abuse and poverty to become a globally-recognized star, will end her show in 2011, her production company said.

"The sun will set on the 'Oprah' show as its 25th season draws to a close on September 9, 2011," Tim Bennett, president of Winfrey's Harpo production company, wrote in a letter to affiliates.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show," which is currently syndicated in 145 countries, has transformed Winfrey into a cultural phenomenon.

She is credited with changing the way people talk to each other, having popularized a confessional interview style that has coaxed secrets, revelations and often tears from guests of all stripes.

She has hosted international superstars and has earned a reputation for being able to score the most highly sought-after interview subjects at any given time.

Born into poverty in Mississippi, Winfrey is now estimated to be worth 2.7 billion dollars and is regularly ranked among the world's most powerful women, celebrities and media personalities.

Don Halcombe, a spokesman for Harpo Productions, declined to comment Thursday on why Winfrey decided to end the program.

"She's going to talk about it on the show tomorrow," he told AFP.

There was speculation that she had decided to focus on her television channel.

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications and is set to replace the Discovery Health Channel in about 70 million US homes.

While originally scheduled to air in 2010, getting the cable channel launched has proved "challenging" due to "management turnover and an uncertain advertising climate," the New York Times reported.

It is now scheduled to air in January 2011, but Winfrey, who will produce some shows and also make appearances, does not plan to bring her talk show, the Times reported.

Winfrey certainly won't lack for options - her talk show served as the foundation for an empire that spans books, radio, magazines and the Internet.

She is known as an almost uniquely influential tastemaker, whose recommendation of a book or product has instantaneous and enormous effect.

Through her now-defunct televised book club she popularized books ranging from "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."

Her stamp of approval on the latter was considered so important she managed to convince the famously-reclusive McCarthy to appear on her show for his first ever television interview.

In 2008, she broke with a precedent of staying out of politics and endorsed fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama's presidential bid.

Her support was estimated by University of Maryland researchers to have brought in a million additional votes and helped Obama win both the Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Winfrey is credited with breaking down barriers as both a woman and an African-American, and overcoming a childhood of poverty and sexual abuse.

Motivated in part by that experience, she has supported charities that help abused children and fought for a national criminal database that former president Bill Clinton signed into law and was known informally as the "Oprah Bill."