Former MTV Networks programming whiz Christina Norman is joining Oprah Winfrey's cable channel as CEO.
Norman will begin her position overseeing all business and creative aspects of the new network on February 17 and will be located in Los Angeles. She was most recently president of MTV and worked for Viacom's flagship network for 17 years working her way up from a freelance production co-ordinator for MTV in the eighties to eventually run MTV and its sister network VH-1. Norman will work closely with Robin Schwartz, president of the network and Robert Tercek, president, digital media who oversees Oprah.com and will also oversee OWN's web operations.
OWN is slated to launch late in 2009 or early 2010 and is backed by Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications. It is expected to debut in 70 million homes.Norman articulated her vision for the new channel: "It's the first network about living your best life." In terms of forthcoming programming genres, Norman said OWN would span: formats, alternative programming, specials, scripted, talk shows, magazine shows, original movies and documentaries. "This area is so broad and what's really going to connect is wellness, friendship to parenting to personal finance. It's not spinach-TV. It will be fun and funny; engaging and entertaining."
Norman, who quit MTV in February 2008, said the channel would try to play a role in the upcoming upfront. "The ad sales piece of this will be huge in this challenging environment. But there is arguably no bigger brand connection than the Oprah brand."
She added that the OWN network would look to partner with cable companies on technological innovation but wasn't able to specify how at this point. "Consumer habits are shifting, innovation is going to be the key to all of us winning.
Norman, who had worked with former Viacom CEO Tom Freston, while at MTV said she'd had some talks with him about the role. Freston is currently a consultant to the channel. "Tom has been a great mentor to me. I want to be Tom Freston, from the hair on down."