As Oprah Winfrey winds down her long-running syndicated talk show this week, daytime television faces a new era of unprecedented flux.

The shift comes as baby boomers age out of daytime’s target audience—women 25 years old to 54 years old—and tastes change.

Two of the six remaining soap operas are soon going off the air. Audiences for individual shows are shrinking as viewers disperse across a growing number of cable networks and elsewhere. And some of broadcast television’s biggest daytime draws are disappearing, including longtime host Regis Philbin.

Ms. Winfrey’s departure alone puts her roughly 6.5 million viewers up for grabs.

“The woman at home is going to have to really rethink what she watches,” says John Nogawski, president of CBS Corp.’s CBS Television Distribution, which distributes Ms. Winfrey’s show, as well as “Judge Judy” and “Dr. Phil.” “That’s a stimulus to rethink what we create.”

To cope with life after “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” daytime executives are tearing up old programming schedules and rewriting the script. They are hiring new talent that can relate to their target audience. Time Warner Inc.’s Telepictures Productions, which produces “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” will launch a new talk show in the fall hosted by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC is in serious negotiations with Katie Couric, who this month wrapped up a five-year stint as anchor of “CBS Evening News,” to create a syndicated talk show.

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