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Oprah Signs for Two More Years

NEW YORK (AP) — Oprah Winfrey, the queen of daytime talk, won't be leaving her throne anytime soon.

Winfrey and King World Productions agreed Wednesday to a two-year contract that will keep her on the air through the 2003-2004 television season. Terms were not disclosed.

She's been making the show since 1986. Winfrey has periodically made noises about stopping, but was quiet before the new deal.

``I am finally at a point in my life where I'm doing the kind of shows I've always wanted to do, helping people to see themselves more clearly and to make choices that lead to more fulfilled lives,'' Winfrey said.

Her show was a prominent stop this fall for presidential candidates courting the votes of women — George W. Bush kissed her, Al Gore didn't. Her book club has become a publishing phenomenon and she even started her own magazine.

She's been atop the syndicated talk show ratings every year this past decade except for one, when Jerry Springer briefly overtook her.

This year, Winfrey's ratings are up and she has a 63 percent lead over her nearest daytime competitor, ``Live with Regis!,'' according to Nielsen Media Research.

Winfrey won so many Emmy Awards as best talk show host — seven — that she has taken herself out of the running for more.

The decision is a relief for King World and its new corporate parent, Viacom. Mel Karmazin, president and chief operating officer of Viacom, called Winfrey's show ``one of the great programming assets in the history of the business, and an important part of our company's success.''

There had been some speculation that King World's new relationship with CBS would give that network's stations an advantage in buying the syndicated show. King World was bought by CBS Television, a Viacom unit.

King World Chairman Roger King said that he's been assured by Viacom's leaders that his company will continue to operate independently. He said the stations that currently air Winfrey's show will be given the first opportunity to renew for two more years.
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