Oprah Reportedly Ready to Walk Away from Her Show

If this pans out, it's a huge showbiz announcement. Nikki Finke has posted that Oprah Winfrey has decided to give up her CBS-syndicated show and move her eponymous daytime chat show to her own cable network.

With the contract on Oprah's show running out, and with her fledgling Oprah Winfrey Network struggling to get off the ground, the entertainment world has been speculating wildly about her next move. To most, however, it seemed unthinkable that Oprah could walk away from her ATM machine of a TV show — contemplating the fate of daytime TV minus Oprah is like Cold War strategists trying to imagine a world without the Soviet Union.

The Big O has been developing the Oprah Winfrey Network for some time in partnership with Discovery Communications, but the network has had trouble getting off the ground without the presence of its namesake's own show. Finke reports that Discovery's chief finally demanded that Oprah go all in and bring her show over or give up on the network entirely. If after much vacillation, which reportedly included several canceled phone appointments with Les Moonves to break the news to him, it would be a big change of heart for Oprah to base her empire on her own cable channel rather than a mere syndicated show.

Back in 1998, when Oprah was poised to take over cable as one of the three "founding mothers" of the Oxygen network, she dangled the possibility of her talk show airing on the new cable station:

She also said she intended to provide ''input and ideas'' in the short-term before she is free from other commitments to produce more programming for the channel. Specifically, she said she had never sold rerun rights to the huge library of editions of her daily talk show and, ''This seems like the perfect place to release them.''

A decade later, when Winfrey announced her OWN network in January 2008, she tried to distance herself as much as possible from the disappointing Oxygen: "I was not a participant in the development of the channel... That's why after a couple of board meetings I took myself off the board."