Oprah Winfrey's OWN is laying off 30 people in a restructuring that continues the troubles of her ratings-deprived, turnover-plagued network. The restructuring also gives Discovery Communications more input into the network it established with Winfrey.
The layoffs in New York and Los Angeles are among the first dramatic moves by Winfrey since she appointed herself CEO in July, two months after the firing of Christina Norman. The talk show hostess, better known for giving out cars and other extravagant gifts to fans than for eliminating jobs, said the decision was a trying one that was essential to the company's long-term health.
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The network has burned through money at a faster rate than expected while earning lower ratings last year than the network it replaced, Discovery Health. The job duties will be taken on by others at the network as well as by employees at its venture partners, Discovery and Winfrey's Harpo Studios.
“It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives,” said Winfrey in a statement. “But the economics of a start-up cable network just don’t work with the cost structure that was in place. As CEO, I have a responsibility to chart the course for long-term success for the network. To wholly achieve that long-term success, this was a necessary next step.”
in the restructuring, several Discovery executives will take on new responsibilities at OWN. The company has invested heavily in OWN, agreeing in August 2010 to boost its initial $100 million commitment by $89 million. In February 2011, it committed another $50 million, mostly toward programming.
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But the network nonetheless had a high-profile failure last week when it announced the cancellation of Rosie O'Donnell's new OWN series, "The Rosie Show," which failed to deliver big numbers. The show had been one of OWN's most-hyped, outside of the shows featuring Winfrey herself.
The restructuring includes Neal Kirsch, a long-time Discovery executive and chief financial officer of Discovery’s U.S. networks, moving to OWN in the role of chief operating officer and CFO. He will report to Logan and Salata. Also, Tina Perry, OWN's vice president, business and legal affairs will now oversee the department and partner with Lee Bartlett, executive vice president of global production management, business and legal affairs at Discovery.
Michelle Holt, OWN's vice president of production, will now oversee production management, and Ian Parmiter, senior vice president of marketing for Discovery ad sales, will now oversee integrated marketing for OWN.
OWN said Winfrey and her network co-presidents, Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, have been reviewing the best structure for the network. It also said the network has had double-digit ratings increased since September and has reached up to 40 million viewers per month.