A shakeup at the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on Monday "will result in 30 staffers being let go and executives from Discovery Communications being brought in to oversee key operations," report our friends Joe Flint and Meg James in the Los Angeles Times. OWN is a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions.
The article continues, "The changes come as OWN continues to struggle to find its voice. Launched in January 2011, OWN has already cost Discovery more than $300 million in programming and marketing costs. The channel’s performance has been so weak that there has even been speculation — denied by insiders — that if the situation doesn’t improve soon the plug could be pulled." (According to The Wall St. Journal, the exact cost was $312 million as of Dec. 31, 2011.)
The Times story adds, "At one point, OWN had a staff of more than 150 people. After this latest round of cuts, OWN will have about 90 on staff. These cuts do not include the dozens of people laid off in the wake of [Rosie] O’Donnell’s show getting the ax. As part of the restructuring, Discovery Communications will have more say in the business operations. Initially, Discovery had something of an arms-length policy when it came to OWN."
The Times article quotes David Leavy, Discovery’s Chief Communications Officer as saying about OWN, "We’re as committed now as we’ve ever been and are bullish about the long-term value we are building."
The Times story notes, "In January, Discovery dispatched Rita Mullin, a longtime Discovery programmer, to help shore up programming at OWN. Now, as part of this restructuring, Neal Kirsch, Discovery’s chief financial officer, will shift to OWN and become its chief operating officer and chief financial officer."