Updated: 4:50 p.m. ET
Christina Norman, the chief executive
of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, is exiting the new cable network after about two
years in the position, Discovery Communications said Friday.
Effective immediately, Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori will serve as
interim CEO of the channel, a joint venture between Discovery and Winfrey's
Harpo Productions. He will also continue to serve in his chief operating
"Peter is Discovery's creative leader, and highly qualified to assume the
leadership at OWN for the next phase of growth," said Discovery CEO David
Zaslav in a statement. "Christina did a great job launching OWN with
long-term support from both advertising and affiliate partners. Peter will now
ensure that OWN reaches its full creative potential with great programming that
delivers on Oprah's vision, mission and brand."
The ratings for OWN, which launched on
Jan. 1, have fallen short of expectations in its first four months on the air.
The network has 21 new series set to debut in 2011, including a show with
Shania Twain and a talk show hosted by Rosie O'Donnell.
"We need to continue to be ambitious and continue to take those
swings," Liguori tells B&C of his
programming strategy for the network. "But always being mindful that it's got
to go through Oprah's window and Oprah's filter, which is a filter of intention
and purpose. Our shows really do have intention at their core. It's how to
marry that intention with entertainment value."
Despite the slow start, Discovery remains financially committed to the venture,
Zaslav saying on the company's earnings call April 28 that they would pump more
money into the channel. Discovery has already invested $215 million in the
channel, including $57 million in the first quarter.
"We like our hand," Liguori says. "We're absolutely going to
be putting more chips into it. I think that those chips are going to be more
strategically placed, not because I'm rubbing anymore IQ points than Christina.
The difference is we just have more learning than we did before we launched."
Winfrey will end her broadcast talk show's run after 25 seasons on May 25,
after which she will be able to take a more visible role in the network,
including the launch of Oprah's Next Chapter in early 2012.
But not before the talk show queen
takes a breather. After Winfrey takes time off after the show's finale, she and
Liguori will start searching for a permanent CEO to lead the network, which is
based in Los Angeles.
Norman joined OWN in January 2009 after
serving as president of MTV. Liguori became Discovery COO in 2009, before which
he was president of entertainment at Fox.