Christina Norman is out at Oprah Winfrey Network as CEO, to be replaced on an interim basis by Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori.
In making the announcement, Discovery Communications said the change will reflect “a transition from a launch phase to a more long-term focus on business and creative strategy, development and execution following the network’s debut.”
In the statement released from Discovery, Oprah Winfrey said: “I want to thank Christina for her important accomplishments, incredible passion and many sacrifices in helping to launch the network. With the final taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show only a few weeks away, I will soon be able to devote my full energies to OWN. This is a natural point of transition, and I am confident that Peter, as an integral part of the launch of OWN, will be a terrific partner for me going forward. He is one of the smartest, most creative executives in media, and I look forward to his leadership as we build our development slate and work toward the launch of ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter.’
“Over the remainder of the year, Peter and I will work together to recruit a permanent CEO for OWN’s next phase of growth,” she added.
“Joining OWN was a great opportunity, and launching it successfully and drawing more than 67 million viewers is one of my proudest achievements,” said Norman in the statement.
“My thanks to Oprah and David for entrusting me with this brand and giving me the opportunity to launch OWN. As I move on to my next challenge, I am confident the strong foundation we have built will position the network to achieve great things.”
OWN launched in January of this year to decent ratings, but has been struggling to keep up with the initial momentum of its debut. During a conference call regarding Discovery Communications’ Q1 2011 results, Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav admitted that it had been a “slower start” for OWN than anticipated and that ratings were “below our expectations.”
In a memo to staff from Winfrey obtained by news agency Reuters, the network’s namesake wrote,”Given all that we have to do, the OWN board felt it was necessary that we have a different kind of leadership in place for the next phase of OWN’s growth.”
While no clues have emerged as to who may replace Norman, speculation is rife, with some pointing to Judy McGrath, now a free agent following her departure as chairman and CEO of Viacom-owned MTV Networks after 30 years with the company.