POSTED: 7:08 a.m. HST, May 26, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 7:14 a.m. HST, May 26, 2011
NEW YORK >> Preliminary figures show Wednesday's finale of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" scored its highest audience in 17 years.
The Nielsen Co. said Thursday that the final episode delivered a 13.3 household rating in the nation's metered markets.
It was the highest number since February 1994. That's when an "Oprah" episode called "People Shed Their Disguises" got a 13.4 rating.
Metered market ratings measure roughly half the nation and can't be translated into audience figures. A viewer count for the "Oprah" finale won't be available from Nielsen for two weeks.
The metered market rating for Monday's surprise farewell episode of "Oprah" logged a 10.2. Nielsen said Tuesday's episode got a 10.7.
The finale of Oprah Winfrey's talk show, taped Tuesday and aired Wednesday, was what she called her "love letter" to fans, she made clear that to her, all those TV friendships went both ways.
"Something in me connected with each of you in a way that allowed me to see myself in you and you in me," Winfrey said. "I listened and grew, and I know you grew along with me."
Winfrey was the only person on stage with little background music and short flashback clips. The show went to commercials with "Twenty-Five Years," a soft song that musician Paul Simon wrote and recorded for her.
She called fans her "safe harbor" and became teary eyed when reflecting on her upbringing in rural Mississippi.
"It is no coincidence that a lonely little girl," Winfrey said, choking up, "who felt not a lot of love, even though my parents and grandparents did the best they could, it is no coincidence that I grew up to feel a genuine kindness, affection, trust and validation from millions of you all over the world."
Winfrey told viewers that sometimes she was a teacher, but more often her viewers instructed her. She called Wednesday's episode her "last class from this stage."
At one point she thanked viewers for sharing her "yellow brick road of blessings" — something she said back in November 2009, when she announced that she would end her show. The program gave rise to a media empire, including a magazine and Winfrey's own cable network, which she launched in January.
Wednesday's show was the last piece of a months-long sendoff, but as the hour wrapped up, Winfrey stopped short of saying farewell.
"I won't say goodbye. I'll just say, until we meet again," she said.
She hugged and kissed her longtime partner Stedman Graham and shook hands with audience members before walking through the halls of Harpo Studios in Chicago, hugging and crying with her staff. She shouted, "We did it!"
The last shot of the finale showed Winfrey walking away with her cocker spaniel, Sadie.