In the midst of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s struggling rating performance, Deadline.com reports that the company was forced to lay off 30 employees or 20 percent of its workforce. The network will restructure its Los Angeles and New York based operations with the remaining executives and employees among OWN’s owners in Discovery Communications and Harpo Studios.
From its inception OWN struggled with low ratings, gaining momentum on large events such as Winfrey’s interview with Whitney Houston’s daughter which saw a record 3.5 million viewers. Last month, the company cut temp positions as part of its major scale back. Lisa Erspamer, one of Winfrey’s most trusted and closest executives has also left her position as the EVP of production and development.
SVP Production Julie Stern is another one of the senior executives recently laid off. OWN COO John MacDonald has agreed to stay on through the transition until May but will not renew his contract. Neil Kirsch, CFO of Discovery’s US networks will take his place.
In addition to the layoffs, on Friday OWN decided to cancel the Rosie O’Donnell talk show which will also likely lead to more job displacements.
“It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives,” Oprah Winfrey, OWN’s CEO and chief creative officer said to Deadline. “But the economics of a start-up cable network just don’t work with the cost structure that was in place. 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.”