Troubled OWN Axes CEO Norman, Brings in Liguori

Shake-up acknowledges network’s lackluster ratings

OWN CEO Christina Norman will leave Oprah Winfrey's troubled network, to be replaced by Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori, OWN said Friday.

The announcement is only the latest bump for OWN, which debuted a year later than scheduled and has struggled for ratings while burning through money.

 

Norman tried to downplay expectations from the start, saying no one expected an easy first year: “I think the next year for us is going to be a lot of learning,” she told TheWrap days before the network's launch. "Any business is built over time. Oprah built her legacy over 25 years, not one airing."

Also read: Oprah's Journey to OWN: A Timeline

The exit comes barely five months after the network debuted with a Winfrey-curated slate heavy on her friends and interests — but often light on Winfrey herself. She plans to devote more time to the network once she wraps her syndicated talk show on May 25. The network announced shifts to its primetime lineup in March.

In August, OWN co-owner Discovery Communications boosted its funding by $89 million, in addition to its initial $100 million commitment. In February it committed another $50 million, mostly to go towards programming. The company said at the time it was still on target financially for the year.

OWN described Liguori's appointment as "a transition from a launch phase to a more long-term focus on business and creative strategy, development and execution." It credited Norman with the "successful launch of the multi-platform joint venture."

Liguori will continue to serve as chief operating officer for Discovery Communications as the network tries to add to its content, Rosie O'Donnell's new talk show "Rosie," expected in October, and debut of "Oprah's Next Chapter" early next year.

"I want to thank Christina for her important accomplishments, incredible passion and many sacrifices in helping to launch the network,” said Winfrey. “With the final taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" only a few weeks away, I will soon be able to devote my full energies to OWN.

"This is a natural point of transition, and I am confident that Peter, as an integral part of the launch of OWN, will be a terrific partner for me going forward. He is one of the smartest, most creative executives in media, and I look forward to his leadership as we build our development slate and work toward the launch of 'Oprah's Next Chapter.' Over the remainder of the year, Peter and I will work together to recruit a permanent CEO for OWN's next phase of growth."

Added Norman: "Joining OWN was a great opportunity, and launching it successfully and drawing more than 67 million viewers is one of my proudest achievements. …  As I move on to my next challenge, I am confident the strong foundation we have built will position the network to achieve great things."