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Why the Head of Oprah's OWN was Fired

Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah Winfrey

OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network is only four months old — but apparently that's old enough for co-owners Discovery Communication and Oprah Winfrey to know that its management isn't working.

Today the company fired the channel's head, Christina Norman. Discovery's chief operating officer Peter Liguori, will take over the channel on an interim basis.

The problem is very simple: OWN's ratings. Despite a massive promotional push, the show hasn't snagged ratings much higher than the channel it replaced at great expense, 'Discovery Health.'

Discovery CEO David Zaslav made a point to stress the fact that OWN shouldn't be judged too soon since Winfrey is still working on her syndicated talk show until its finale on May 25. She isn't scheduled to start appearing on 'OWN' regularly until January 2012. But even considering Winfery's absence, Zaslav says the channel is off to a slower than expected start.

Liguori's background makes him a good fit for OWN. Prior to his role at Discovery, he was the president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting and also has held senior roles at FX. His challenge is figuring out to distinguish OWN from a sea of other content also targeting women — like Oxygen, Lifetime, and to a certain extent, even Bravo.

So who may be in line to take over from Liguori? Just yesterday Judy McGrath stepped down as CEO of MTV networks. This may not be a coincidence — she was approached to run OWN back in 2008. Another name that's been thrown out there is Terry Wood, who used to run CBS syndication.

Failure isn't really an option for OWN — Oprah has given up her daytime talk show to focus on the channel. We'll see what she has up her sleeve to lure viewers to the new channel on the same scale as she drew them to her syndicated show.

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