Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network to lay off one-fifth of workforce
Struggling station, formed last year, making difficult decisions
Oprah Winfrey's television network, OWN, will layoff one-fifth of its employees and restructure its operations in New York and Los Angeles. Winfrey said the decision to let 30 staffers go is a "tough" one, but the economics of a start-up cable network didn't fit with OWN's cost structure.
OWN began as an ambitious new platform for Oprah Winfrey after she finished her long-running, top-rated daytime talk show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Viewership for OWN shows have been largely unimpressive.
According to OWN, the responsibilities of the laid-off workers will be distributed among people with the network and its venture partners.
The channel, began New Year's Day of 2011, weathered a freshman year of executive turnover and missteps that proved OWN lacked a solid foundation. Discovery Communications invested reportedly $250 million, if not more.
Discovery executives will take a more active role in the channel, according to the announcement. Neal Kirsch, chief financial officer of Discovery's U.S. networks, will move to OWN as the chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
Lee Bartlett, another Discovery executive, will have joint oversight of business and legal affairs with an OWN vice president, Tina Perry.
OWN began as an ambitious new platform for Winfrey after she finished her long-running, top-rated daytime talk show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Viewership for OWN shows have been largely unimpressive. The sole example was Rosie O'Donnell's short-lived talk show, which was cancelled last week.
The network did receive a burst of viewer attention this month for Winfrey's exclusive interview with Whitney Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina. The interview drew 3.5 million viewers, the channel's biggest audience to date. The 90-minute special also featured interviews with Houston's brother and sister-in-law.
OWN failed to raise the modest ratings and small audience earned by the low-profile Discovery Health channel it replaced.
Winfrey stepped in behind the scenes and became CEO and chief creative officer of OWN when it began to struggle to reach audiences. Winfrey brought in her Harpo leadership team of Logan and Salata as presidents. She also increased her on-camera profile with "Oprah's Next Chapter."
"I would absolutely say it is and was not where I want it to be for year one," Winfrey said last December. "My focus up until (last) May was doing what I do best, which is 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' and giving that my full attention" until its conclusion."
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