Oprah: After 25 years, it's time for a change

AP: Oprah Winfrey at the start of her extraordinary careerAP: Oprah Winfrey at the start of her extraordinary careerIs that rain, or the tears of thousands of publishers, TV executives, and celebrities plotting their public rehabilitation pouring down?

It's official: Oprah Winfrey will pull the plug on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2011 after 25 seasons on the air. Rumored for what seems like forever, likely feared for longer by CBS Television Distribution, which distributes the show to more than 200 U.S. TV markets, the shuttering of the heart of Oprah's media empire is nigh. Oprah will announce what's next on her show today. This is no cut-and-run move, for sure. There's time for everyone who has benefited greatly from being in Oprah's orb to find a way to benefit from her golden touch in her new world: cable TV.

With tears in her eyes at the end of Friday's show, Winfrey said she was grateful for the "yellow brick road of blessings that have led me to this moment," along with the trust and loyalty of an audience that has grown up with her and welcomed her into their homes for a quarter century.

"I love this show. This show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it's time to say goodbye. Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit,'' she said. "It's the perfect number. It's the exact right time."

But there's still a season and a half to go. And because of that, Winfrey said: "Over this holiday break, my team and I will be brainstorming new ways that we can entertain you and inform you and uplift you when we return here in January.And then, season 25 - we are going to knock your socks off."

At 55, Winfrey is expected to turn her attention to starting OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network. It's a joint venture with Discovery Communications and it will replace the Discovery Health Channel and air in about 74 million homes in 2011.

Over the past two decades, who hasn't sat on Oprah's set? Tom Cruise jumped around like a crazy man on it. Author James Frey lied then later got a public lashing on it. Novelists got through-the-roof book sales by way of it. TV careers were launched on it (Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz). Countless stars confessed on it, sought healing and renewal on it. And it all, Oprah says, started from nothing: "No power. No money. Not even my thoughts were my own," she wrote in the 1998 book "Journey to Beloved." "I had no free will. No voice. Now, I have the freedom, power, and will to speak to millions every day -- having come from nowhere."

We can't wait to see how she shapes her own network, and how she changes the television industry along the way.This is no shocker, for sure, but let us know what you're thinking as Oprah's afternoon-network-TV-talk-show reign nears its end. Can anyone fill her shoes?