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Discovery CEO acknowledges stumbles in launch of Winfrey's OWN

June 2, 2011 |  8:03 am

Discovery Communications Chief Executive David Zaslav acknowledged there have been stumbles in the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network but remains optimistic that the right mix of programming will be found and ratings will follow.

ZASLAV Speaking at the Nomura investment conference, Zaslav said that to be successful, "we're going to have to fall down a bunch of times" and listen to the viewers.

"We can't say what the OWN brand is, the audience is going to tell us," Zaslav said.

OWN, a joint-venture between Winfrey and Discovery, launched Jan. 1. Initial ratings were very strong, but after the novelty wore off audiences quickly drifted away. Behind the scenes there has been a lot of executive shuffling. Most recently, Christina Norman was pushed out as chief executive of OWN and Discovery Chief Operating Officer Peter Liguori was brought in to oversee the network until a new head can be found.

One of the challenges for OWN has been Winfrey's own level of commitment. She has acknowledged that her focus on the end of her daytime talk show distracted her from the day-to-day operation of OWN. Of course, the flip side is that Winfrey is a forceful presence and now that she will be more engaged it will be interesting to see how she and her partners at Discovery work together.

OWN has said it wants to do inspirational programming, but unfortunately that has proven to be a hard sell to viewers, who have been conditioned to watch tawdry reality fare.

One valuable asset for OWN will be Winfrey's library of old shows, which it will have access to starting in the fall.

-- Joe Flint

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Winfrey and OWN need to be patient

Shake-up at OWN as Christina Norman steps down

Photo: Discovery CEO David Zaslav. Credit: Associated Press

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