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OWN and Discovery's stumbling walk down the aisle

August 26, 2009 | 11:43 am

The union of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications seemed like a match made in heaven.

But 18 months into their relationship, the couple still hasn't officially made it down the aisle, figured out what china pattern to select or how they want to decorate their new house -- even whether they want to keep the children. Let's just say they are stuck in some heavy escrow.

OPRAH The two media giants had intended to launch their joint venture, OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, this summer. But the debut of the channel, which is scheduled to replace Discovery Health Channel, has been delayed at least a year -- until mid-2010. In the meantime, the channel has experienced a revolving door of top executives. In February, after a yearlong executive search, OWN hired former MTV executive Christina Norman to be chief executive. Two months later, the head of programming, Robin Schwartz, abruptly left the Los Angeles-based channel and just this week OWN executives confirmed that two other top programmers -- Maria Grasso and Nina Wass -- had exited after less than a year.

The departures were first reported by Broadcasting & Cable.

Channel executives attribute the changes to simple growing pains of a start-up network.
"Of course there is a lot of pressure, there is when you launch anything.  And this channel has to be outstanding because it has Oprah's name on it, and it has my name on it," said Norman. "A launch is great but I'm looking to build and sustain the business. We're taking the time to get it right." 

-- Meg James