05/06/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
Oprah has recanted. She's not going anywhere.
The talk-show queen has changed her mind about retiring from her syndicated "Oprah Winfrey Show" at the end of the 2005-06 season and is close to sealing a deal to renew her program for two more seasons, through 2007-08, says the Hollywood Reporter.
For several weeks, Winfrey, 49, has been quietly negotiating with distributor King World Productions and the seven ABC-owned stations that basically form the backbone of the show's affiliate base, reports the trade paper.
Those ABC stations even had a bit of high-powered competition for Oprah's services, says the Reporter, given that CBS-owned stations also tried to make a bid.
Last year, Winfrey -- one of the wealthiest people in showbiz -- announced she would bow out of her program in 2006. That sent shockwaves throughout the TV world.
Produced by Winfrey's Harpo Productions, the Chicago-based program has consistently ranked as daytime's top-rated talk show since its debut in 1986 -- except for a brief spell during 1998-99, when, to the dismay of many, "The Jerry Springer Show" took the top spot.
Of course, Oprah also is a national institution, and her program wields tremendous influence. On average, the show attracts an audience of about 26 million viewers a week.
She would have been missed.