Seems like the Oprah Winfrey Network just can't catch a break: after Friday's announcement that The Rosie Show wouldn't be coming back to the network after a low-rated first season, OWN is restructuring. Thirty staffers are being laid off, with their duties redistributed throughout the the network and the two partners in the joint venture cabler—Discovery Communications and Oprah's own Harpo Studios.
Discovery will put Neal Kirsch, its CFO of U.S. networks, into the position of COO and CFO at OWN, below Winfrey and reporting to Sheri Salata and Erik Logan—the two Harpo execs installed by Winfrey when she took over as CEO of the network. Former Discovery COO Peter Liguori was trying to get the network back on track before he and Discovery parted ways at the end of 2011.
“It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives,” said Winfrey, who is finally the head of OWN after multiple execs accepted and were dismissed from that position in quick succession. "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."
The cost structure has indeed been the focus of criticism since the network's inception: Discovery has sunk some $250 million into the network (and counting), and OWN hasn't come close to recouping that initial investment.
Meanwhile, Discovery has installed several of its heavy hitters to work out the kinks at OWN: aside from Kirsch, global production management exec vp Lee Bartlett and Discovery ad sales senior vp Ian Parmiter are now part of the OWN team. Tina Perry (vp of business and legal affairs), will now oversee the biz and legal affairs department with Bartlett, and Michelle Holt will now oversee production management.