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‘Oprah’ Draws Largest Audience in Over 17 Years, CBS Says

Oprah Winfrey, departing broadcast television for cable TV, attracted her largest audience in 17 years with the finale of her daily talk show.

The last “The Oprah Winfrey Show” was seen in 13.3 percent of the 115.9 million U.S. TV households tracked by Nielsen Co., New York-based CBS said today in an e-mailed statement. Because the show aired at different times in different cities, complete data won’t be available until June 7.

The rating marked the highest household total since the Feb. 21, 1994, episode titled “People Shed Their Disguises,” according to CBS, the program’s distributor. A link to that show is available at Winfrey’s website.

“I’m truly amazed that I, who started out in rural Mississippi in 1954 when the vision for a black girl was limited to be either a maid or a teacher in a segregated school, could end up here,” Winfrey, 57, said during the final broadcast. “You all have been a safe harbor for me.”

Winfrey is leaving the weekday show to focus on the 24-hour cable channel she and her Chicago-based production company, Harpo, started with Silver Spring, Maryland-based Discovery Communications Inc. Viewership of the Oprah Winfrey Network has slid 25 percent since beginning in January.

With the broadcast show over, Winfrey will begin appearing more frequently on OWN. In September, the cable channel will begin carrying vintage episodes of her talk show. OWN plans to air 60 episodes with new introductions taped by Winfrey. In January, she will start a new show, “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” The host committed to appear on OWN about 70 hours a year, double what she initially planned.

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