Maria Grasso leaving Lifetime to join OWN

Will assume top role at Oprah Winfrey Network

Maria Grasso is expected to exit Lifetime to join rival cable upstart OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the joint venture between Discovery Communications and Winfrey's Harpo Prods.

Details about Grasso's post at OWN are still sketchy, but she would assume a top development role at OWN under president Robin Schwartz. Grasso is the second key executive hire for Schwartz after the appointment of Nina Wass as senior vp creative affairs last month.

As of Thursday, Grasso was still working at Lifetime, visiting the set of the network's pilot "Drop Dead Diva" in Atlanta.

Grasso's pending departure would follow the exit of Lifetime entertainment president Susanne Daniels in June.

Grasso had worked under Daniels at the WB Network, where Daniels was president of entertainment and Grasso was senior vp drama development. Daniels brought her to Lifetime shortly after she took the reins of the network in September 2005.

At Lifetime, Grasso oversaw the development of the network's slate of scripted series, including breakthrough hit "Army Wives."

Before that, she spent five years at WB, where she was instrumental in developing such series as "Everwood," "One Tree Hill" and "Jack & Bobby."

Grasso also has served as senior vp comedy development at Warner Bros. TV, executive vp development at Will Vinton Studios and senior vp comedy development at Universal TV.

A spokeswoman for OWN could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Lifetime declined comment.
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