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Oprah channel OWN hires another creative executive

November 4, 2009 |  3:11 pm
The highly anticipated but delayed cable channel OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network will soon have a new chief creative officer -- Lisa Erspamer. But unlike those who have gone before her, this executive has something that others at OWN have lacked: experience working with Winfrey.Lisa Erspamer

Erspamer is currently co-executive producer of Winfrey's daytime talk show, a position she has held since 2006. According to OWN, Erspamer has produced hundreds of episodes of the syndicated show and overseen many memorable moments including this season’s kickoff “flash mob” dance party in the streets of Chicago and the now-famous Oprah car giveaway. Erspamer is a 15-year veteran of Harpo Productions; she joined Winfrey's company in 1994.

She will move from Chicago to Los Angeles in January to join the planned cable channel, a joint venture of Winfrey and Discovery Communications. The owners have yet to announce a launch date for the channel.

“Lisa has been a creative superstar. She’s brought fire and force to many of the incredible shows we’ve done over the years. I value her passion and sensibilities and trust her instincts and judgment. I know she’ll be a great fit with the OWN team,” Winfrey, who is chairwoman of OWN, said in a statement.

She will report to OWN Chief Executive Christina Norman, a former top MTV executive, who was brought in by Tom Freston, the ex-MTV and ex-Viacom chief who is working as an advisor to the channel.

The move appears to signal that Winfrey might be close to announcing an official end date for her syndicated talk show that runs on ABC. Winfrey is under contract to produce the show through May 2011, which will be at the completion of her 25th season. She has not said whether she will extend her run beyond that.

OWN has struggled in its nearly two-year gestation period finding the right executive team. The high-stakes venture has had plenty of behind-the-scenes drama. In the last six months, three top programmers, including OWN's original president, have exited the channel. Norman was hired this year, and in June, OWN named another head of programming, Jamila Hunter, who came from NBC Universal. 

-- Meg James

Photo: Lisa Erspamer. Credit: OWN

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