There’s trouble at the top for Oprah Winfrey, as continuing struggles force her ratings-challenged network to slash its staff levels.
OWN, the cable network co-venture of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo company and Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications, announced the restructure of its network operations in Los Angeles and New York on Monday.
They plan to layoff 30 workers, with the responsibilities of those leaving being redistributed among the network and venture partners.
‘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,’ Winfrey said.
‘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.’ 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. ‘We have been on the air for 15 months, and since September we have gained momentum in ratings and viewership,’ Logan said. ‘Restructuring our business will allow us to build a solid foundation for long-term growth.’
But the network has struggled to gain traction since launching in January 2011, though ratings improved with the debut of Oprah’s Next Chapter, which features the veteran host speaking to public figures and news-makers outside of the studio.
She proved her ability to draw in viewers when a March 11 sit-down with Whitney Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, brought in record numbers for the channel. But Winfrey has made it clear she does not want to return to a full-time hosting gig. Among the casualties of the restructure is Rosie O’Donnell, the one-time queen of lite celebrity chat.
Her five-month-old show was cancelled three days before the announcement, averaging fewer than 200,000 viewers on a daily basis.