Oprah Winfrey's OWN Lays Off 30 in Network Restructuring

Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Ratings-challenged OWN has let go of 30 employees as part of a restructuring announced Monday.

“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 chief executive 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.”

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In a bid to improve what had become a dark spot in Discovery Communications’ otherwise strong portfolio, 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. Added Logan, “We have been on the air for 15 months, and since September we have gained momentum in ratings and viewership. Restructuring our business will allow us to build a solid foundation for long-term growth.” 

The reconfiguration of OWN's operations in Los Angeles and New York will see the responsibilities of those exiting staffers redistributed among the network and venture partners Discovery and Harpo Studios. Neal Kirsch, a longtime Discovery executive and CFO of Discovery’s U.S. networks, will be moving to OWN in the role of chief operating officer and chief financial officer, reporting directly to Logan and Salata. 

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Additionally, Tina Perry, OWN’s vp business and legal affairs, will now oversee the department and partner with Lee Bartlett, Discovery’s executive vp global production management, business and legal affairs; Michelle Holt, OWN’s vp production, will oversee production management; and Discovery senior vp marketing and ad sales Ian Parmiter will oversee integrated marketing for OWN.  

The news comes three days after OWN 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 failed to cut through the clutter and went through a series of tweaks before being pulled.

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