Ellen DeGeneres told her virtual studio audience that she has long planned to wrap her talk show after completing 19 seasons.
In “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” episode set to air Thursday, the host in her opening remarks acknowledges the news that broke today of her decision to call it a wrap after the 2021-22 season. She began her Emmy-winning run in daytime in 2003.
“Two years ago I signed a three-year deal. I always knew in my heart that (season) 19 would be my last,” she said. “Nineteen is a great number.”
DeGeneres’ voice broke a few times as she spoke about her reasoning as she made the final decision about her Telepictures Prods. series. She thanked viewers for supporting the show that transformed her life and made her a bona fide superstar.
“The past 18 years has changed my life — you all have changed my life,” she said. “I’m forever grateful to all of you for watching, for laughing, for dancing, sometimes crying. This show has been the greatest experience of my life and I owe it all to you.”
DeGeneres likened the upcoming passage for her to an earlier chapter of her career that was also momentous — when she came out as lesbian on her 1990s ABC sitcom “Ellen” and on the cover of Time magazine.
“In 1997 I knew it was time to come out on my sitcom and live my truth,” she said. Back then I had a vivid dream that a bird flew out of a cage and set itself free because it needed to get out of the cage. Recently I had a dream that a beautiful bird with bright red feathers whispered to me ‘You can still do stuff on Netflix.’ And that was the sign I was looking for.”
DeGeneres has been facing ratings declines in recent years. She has also taken hits to her reputation for preaching “be kind” to her audience after allegations surfaced last year about inappropriate behavior on the set of her show. Variety reported that some crew members were “furious” with the show and the host over last spring amid the COVID-19 lockdown panic and the uncertainty about whether they would be paid while the show was produced remotely from DeGeneres’ home.
As DeGeneres noted herself, it’s long been expected that she would wrap up her run sooner rather than later. There was speculation that she would hold on for a 20-season legacy but the events of the past year likely hastened her decision. DeGeneres is one of the most highly paid personalities on television with a big ownership stake in the show that is said to be worth as much as $50 million a year to the host.
As the DeGeneres hinted, it’s believed that she will star another comedy special for Netflix. In 2018 she fronted “Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable” for the streamer, which marked her first standup special in 15 years and brought her a $20 million paycheck.
Based at Warner Bros., DeGeneres’ A Very Good Production banner has also become a prolific producer of unscripted series, including NBC’s “Ellen’s Game of Games,” which she has hosted since 2017.