After dom­i­nating day­time tele­vi­sion for 25 years, Oprah’s beloved talk show ends today, allowing her to focus on her new cable channel, OWN. For years, the host, phil­an­thropist, enter­tainer and savvy busi­ness­woman rec­om­mended books and prod­ucts, gave away gifts, trips and cars, and con­nected with audi­ences and home viewers in a uniquely per­sonal way. Here, Bill Lan­caster, a lec­turer in com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies and 20-​​year vet­eran of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, dis­cusses how Oprah defined the day­time slot and affected her viewers — and who may be next in line for the title of Queen of Day­time TV.

How did Oprah’s show define the land­scape of day­time television?

I would say that she really helped to revive what is the oth­er­wise dol­drums of tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming. Day­time TV doesn’t have the glamour and star power of the evening shows and it’s often been called a waste­land of pro­gram­ming. She came along and really put day­time on the map, which, in turn resulted in a real boost for tele­vi­sion sta­tions and adver­tisers. So, you can’t exag­gerate the amount of atten­tion and adver­tising rev­enue that she brought to daytime.

How did she affect her viewers?

She has con­nected to Amer­ican tele­vi­sion viewers like few tele­vi­sion hosts in recent broad­cast his­tory have. She was everyone’s sort of mom, sister and next-​​door neighbor.  Talk shows are all about the lik­a­bility of the hosts even more than they are about the con­tent of the show, and her ability to con­nect with her audi­ence is extra­or­di­nary. — not to men­tion that she comes across as someone who really cares about helping others. Often on the show she’ll remind viewers, “I’m here to edu­cate and inform you, not to enter­tain you. If in some sense along the way I do enter­tain you, that’s fine, but my main mis­sion is to inform, to help and to edu­cate.” Mil­lions of people got prac­tical, valu­able infor­ma­tion from her show, whether it was about per­sonal health, dealing with family prob­lems, or even the news.  It is impor­tant to put all of this in the con­text of Oprah the shrewd busi­ness­woman. While I don’t doubt that she has the gen­uine inter­ests of people in mind, it must be under­stood that she has worked hard to sell her show, sup­porting the adver­tisers and making the affil­iate sta­tions happy.  She has been incred­ibly entre­pre­neurial and has had phe­nom­enal suc­cess at selling this product called Oprah.

Who will fill her shoes?

The answer to that is very simple: no one will be able to take the place of Oprah.  Someone like that comes along once every 50 years, so no one is going to hit with the impact of that woman. Plus, you really have to look beyond her tele­vi­sion career — there are some pun­dits would argue that she helped put Pres­i­dent Obama in office, for instance.  There may even be a little dis­ap­point­ment about the fact that someone with so much trust, so much star power, and a net worth of more than a bil­lion dol­lars, isn’t plan­ning do some­thing very big, like run for office. Instead, it can be seen as some­what anti­cli­mactic that she is using this incred­ible value to start a tele­vi­sion net­work. Fur­ther­more, as someone who’s been in the busi­ness for 25 years, I can tell you that this is a very risky move. Simply put, the odds of launching a new, suc­cessful TV show — let alone an entire net­work — are extremely slim, so I don’t believe anyone would be sur­prised if this ven­ture fails. Then again, Oprah of all people has the where­withal to keep it afloat and keep her brand strong.

Per­haps the biggest take­away from this end of an era, besides the fact that tens of mil­lions of viewers won’t be able to have their coffee with Oprah each day, is that the show’s absence from day­time tele­vi­sion rep­re­sents a mon­u­mental rev­enue loss to local sta­tions and adver­tisers everywhere.