Rumored for a while, the head of OWN, Christina Norman is officially exited. Translation: she was fired.
Peter Liguori, COO of Discovery Communications will serve as interim CEO (OWN is a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah’s Harpo Productions).
Rumors will now swirl that Judy McGrath, who yesterday stepped down as head of MTV Networks will get the job. Once that’s sorted out we can get back to speculating about whether Oprah will wind up doing a daily talk show on OWN.
Here’s the press release:
PETER LIGUORI NAMED INTERIM CEO OF OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK
Discovery Communications’ Chief Operating Officer adds OWN Leadership Responsibilities Following Departure of Christina Norman
Los Angeles, CA and Silver Spring, MD – Peter Liguori has been named Interim Chief Executive Officer of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, it was announced today by Oprah Winfrey, Chairman of OWN, and David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications. The appointment reflects 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 on January 1, 2011.
Effective immediately, Liguori steps into the role held by Christina Norman, who led the successful launch of the multi-platform joint venture. In addition to his Chief Operating Officer (COO) responsibilities for Discovery Communications, Liguori will oversee the network as it continues building a slate of new and original content, including the October debut of Rosie O’Donnell’s new talk show ROSIE and the launch of OPRAH’S NEXT CHAPTER in early 2012.
“I want to thank Christina for her important accomplishments, incredible passion and many sacrifices in helping to launch the network,” said Winfrey. “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.”
“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. “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.”
“Peter is Discovery’s creative leader, and highly qualified to assume the leadership at OWN for the next phase of growth,” said Zaslav. “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.”
OWN debuted on January 1, 2011, and delivered double digit primetime increases across all key demos vs. Discovery Health a year ago for 1Q. Strong performing series include SEASON 25: OPRAH BEHIND THE SCENES, OUR AMERICA WITH LISA LING and THE JUDDS. Key upcoming series debuts include WHY NOT? WITH SHANIA TWAIN and FINDING SARAH, with the Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson.
Among his primary responsibilities as Discovery’s COO, Liguori oversees Discovery’s interests in its joint venture channels, The Hub, 3net and OWN, as well as providing leadership for the company’s operational organizations, including Marketing, Discovery Studios, Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs, Business Affairs, Research, Digital Media and Commerce, and Media Technology, Production and Operations. In addition to his operational role, he also oversees Discovery’s cross-company global Creative Council with a focus on maximizing the value of the company’s content, marketing resources and overall corporate assets.
Before joining Discovery in 2009, Liguori most recently served as president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company, where he was responsible for all Fox program development and marketing. Prior to assuming that position in 2005, Liguori was president and CEO of News Corp.’s FX Networks since 1998, overseeing business and programming operations for FX and Fox Movie Channel. Under his leadership, over a five-year period, FX grew from an emerging network reaching 39 million homes to a top-five basic cable network reaching more than 84 million homes and recording all-time highs in ratings and revenue.
Liguori joined Fox/Liberty Networks in 1996 as Senior Vice President, Marketing for a new joint venture, which now includes Fox Sports Net, FX, Fox Sports World, SPEED and National Geographic Channel. Prior to joining Fox, Liguori was Vice President, Consumer Marketing at HBO. He also held several positions in HBO’s Home Video Division, including Vice President, Marketing and Senior Vice President, Marketing, where his duties included the creation and implementation of marketing programs for all HBO Home Video product expansion and the development of its programming line-up.
Liguori also has experience as a producer of the widely acclaimed independent feature film, “Big Night.” Prior to HBO, he worked in advertising at Ogilvy & Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi.
About OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK
A joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications, OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK is a multi-platform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN debuted on January 1, 2011, in approximately 80 million homes on what was the Discovery Health Channel. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform, Oprah.com.
About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the world’s #1 nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 200 countries. Discovery is dedicated to satisfying curiosity through 130-plus worldwide television networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science and Investigation Discovery, as well as US joint venture networks OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, The Hub and 3net, the first 24-hour 3D network. Discovery also is a leading provider of educational products and services to schools and owns and operates a diversified portfolio of digital media services, including HowStuffWorks.com. For more information, please visit http://www.discoverycommunications.com.