By Stephen M. Silverman
May 20, 2003 01:00 PM

Two weeks after word seeped out that Oprah Winfrey might extend her TV series for another two years, now comes the official news. Oprah is staying.

The media baroness, 49, has signed a contract that will keep her hit daytime TV program on the air into 2008, her production company, Harpo Productions, and the show’s distributor, King World Productions, announced Monday, reports Reuters.

No financial terms were disclosed. Earlier this year, Winfrey became the first African-American woman to make the annual Forbes magazine list of the world’s wealthiest. Winfrey has a fortune estimated to be about $1 billion.

“It’s fulfilling being able to do this kind of television,” Winfrey said in the renewal announcement Monday, “and I believe continuing to have a voice and a platform to speak to the world is still the right thing to do.”

Though it was expected that her Chicago-based series would wrap it up in 2006 when Winfrey’s current contract was due to expire, this new deal — Oprah’s second two-year extension in slightly more than a year — will keep Oprah in front of and behind the camera as host and producer through the 2007-2008 season.

Winfrey’s show 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.