OWN cancels Rosie; lays off 30


OWN / Oprah Winfrey NetworkThe ratings-challenged OWN Network (a JV between Harpo Studios and  Discovery Communications) has canceled Rosie O’Donnell’s five-month-old talk show, which was averaging fewer than 200,000 viewers on a daily basis. Despite high hopes for the longtime host to help put Winfrey’s network on the map, the 7 p.m. series didn’t show improvement, even after a series of tweaks.

OWN also announced 3/19 it has eliminated 30 positions in Los Angeles and New York as part of a restructuring of its network operations.

 “It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives, but the economics of a start-up cable network just don’t work with the cost structure that was in place,” said OWN CEO Oprah Winfrey, who was in the network’s mid-Wilshire offices Monday afternoon. “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.”

Winfrey took over as chief executive eight months ago. At that time, longtime Harpo leaders Erik Logan and Shari Salata were tapped as presidents of OWN.

Neal Kirsch, CFO of Discovery’s U.S. networks, will be moving to OWN as COO and CFO, reporting directly to Logan and Salata. He steps in for COO John MacDonald, who is departing, and the net’s CFO, who left last fall.

Tina Perry, OWN VP/Business and Legal Affairs, will now oversee the department and partner with Lee Bartlett, Discovery’s EVP/Global Production Management, Business and Legal Affairs; Michelle Holt, OWN’s VP/Production, will oversee production management; and Ian Parmiter, Discovery SVP/Marketing and Ad Sales will oversee integrated marketing. 

Neal Kirsch, CFO of Discovery’s U.S. networks will assume the role of COO/CFO of OWN, reporting to OWN co-presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata.

Tina Perry, OWN’s VP of business and legal affairs will now oversee that department along with Lee Bartlett, Discovery’s executive VP of global productions management, business and legal affairs. Michelle Holt, OWN’s VP of production will now oversee production management, replacing SVP/Production Julie Stern, who is departing as part of the layoffs.

RBR-TVBR observation: Oprah established herself as the queen of daytime talk shows with an appointment-viewing audience. The network—launched across the country in the high digits of pay cable systems—never caught on because she ended her show instead of transitioning it to the new network. Her audience was accustomed to turning on one of the local affiliates, settling in to watch Oprah and then the afternoon news. Her name alone was not enough to viewers over to Channel 321 or 189 to programming they weren’t familiar with. Bring her daytime show back and the network will likely see some success.