The host of the talk show confirmed on Wednesday that the program's upcoming 19th season will be the last. "It's going to be really hard on the last day, but I also know it’s time," DeGeneres told The Hollywood Reporter. "When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged – and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore. I need something new to challenge me."
"Although all good things must come to an end, you still have hope that truly great things never will," Warner Bros.' unscripted TV president Mike Darnell added, calling the series "an absolute phenomenon" that established itself "as the premiere destination" for both superstars and incredible heartfelt human-interest stories. "Ellen was and is an indelible piece of the television landscape, and it will be sorely missed."
A source told ET on Wednesday that DeGeneres "just feels like it's time to move on."
"Ellen doesn't feel any financial pressure to figure out her next move," the source said, "and wants to involve herself in work projects that make her happy and accomplished."
A second source told ET that staff of The Ellen DeGeneres Show were informed about the news on Tuesday. DeGeneres is expected to sit down with longtime pal Oprah Winfrey on Wednesday to discuss the decision. The interview will air during Thursday's episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, according to THR.
Ellen premiered on Sept. 8, 2003, and over the course of its 18 seasons has won 61 Daytime Emmy Awards. According to Forbes' Madeline Berg, who spoke with ET, DeGeneres makes an estimated $55 million a year as host of Ellen, and has an overall net worth of over $300 million. In May 2019, DeGeneres signed a three-year deal to extend her program through 2022.
"I’m excited to announce that I’ll be doing my show for three more years," the host told her audience after news broke of her multiyear contract. "Mostly because I love doing it so much every day, but also because that takes me to the end of my car lease."
DeGeneres spoke with ET that same month about when she planned on leaving the show. "[Maybe] when people kind of are tired of me, and I think I'll sense that," she said at the time. "I'll walk away really when I stop having fun. I actually don't care about the rest of the people. If I'm having fun and no one's watching, I don't care. But if I'm not having fun and everyone's watching, then I should walk away."
News of DeGeneres leaving her talk show comes less than a year after The Ellen DeGeneres Show became embroiled with controversy. Former employees called out the show in a BuzzFeed News expose for allegedly having a "toxic work environment," which prompted an internal investigation and production to go on hiatus. At the time, DeGeneres apologized in a staff email and the show held a virtual staff meeting to discuss the allegations.
During her first show back in September, which marked the season 18 premiere, DeGeneres addressed the controversy on-air, telling viewers, "As you may have heard, this summer there were accusations of a toxic work environment at our show, and then there was an investigation."
"I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected," she continued. "Being known as the 'Be Kind Lady' is a tricky position to be in. The truth is I am that person you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient -- and I am working on all of that. ... I am a work in progress."
A source told ET on Wednesday that while the allegations against DeGeneres were tough, she stayed because she wanted to honor her commitment to the show and her staff through the end of her contract. DeGeneres also said in her new interview with The Hollywood Reporter that all the drama surrounding the show the past year is not the reason for her departure.
"It almost impacted the show. It was very hurtful to me. I mean, very. But if I was quitting the show because of that, I wouldn't have come back this season," DeGeneres explained. "So, it's not why I'm stopping, but it was hard because I was sitting at home, it was summer, and I see a story that people have to chew gum before they talk to me and I'm like, 'OK, this is hilarious.' Then I see another story of some other ridiculous thing and then it just didn't stop. And I wasn't working, so I had no platform, and I didn't want to address it on [Twitter] and I thought if I just don't address it, it's going to go away because it was all so stupid."
"My whole being is about making people happy. And with the talk show, all I cared about was spreading kindness and compassion and everything I stand for was being attacked," she continued. "So, it destroyed me, honestly. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. And it makes me really sad that there’s so much joy out there from negativity. It’s a culture now where there are just mean people, and it’s so foreign to me that people get joy out of that."
DeGeneres continued on, telling the outlet that she doesn't have "the answer" in regard to what's next for her, professionally.
"I’ve been trying to think about that. I have some ideas but my agent is just like, 'Why don’t you just sit still for a minute. You probably don’t even know how exhausted you are and what it’s going to be like to sit still,'" she explained. "And I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do that because I’m like a Ferrari in neutral. I’m constantly needing to go."
"So, that’s my first challenge and then I’m going to figure it out," she added. "I wouldn’t have thought I was ever going to do a talk show when I stopped doing movies and sitcoms. I thought that that was the only path. And then all of a sudden there was a talk show that took me on this 19-year journey."
When asked if she would ever consider returning to movies, DeGeneres -- who famously voiced Dory in Finding Nemo -- said, "Movies for sure."
"If there were a great role, I’d be able to do that, which I’m not able to do now," she shared. "I’m opening up my campus in Rwanda next year and I want to be more involved with conservation and everything that matters to me as far as the environment and animals."
According to THR, DeGeneres will still remain a part of the Warner Bros. fold, "having built a sprawling portfolio of unscripted shows there in recent years," including Fox’s The Masked Dancer, NBC’s Ellen’s Game of Games and HBO Max’s Ellen’s Next Great Designer, along with Ellen Digital Ventures, which is responsible for more than 60 original series. Hear more in the video below.