Exec exits as Winfrey network topper
The cabler announced Schwartz’s exit on Monday. Schwartz won’t be replaced; instead, creative affairs senior VP Nina Wass and programming senior VP Maria Grasso will now report directly to the channel’s CEO, Christina Norman.
Schwartz was conspicuously absent last week when Norman presented the channel’s initial programming slate to advertisers in Los Angeles, as part of Discovery Communications’ upfront presentation.
Schwartz was hired as OWN president last June; at the time, it wasn’t clear whether the channel was going to hire a CEO as well.
But Norman joined the channel as CEO in January. According to insiders, the channel’s brass realized that there had become too many redundancies with both a president and a CEO at the channel, which is a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey.
The channel might ultimately have been the wrong fit for Schwartz, who’s well known for her development strength in the scripted arena. Prior to OWN, Schwartz served as president of Regency TV; before that, she served as VP of programming at ABC Family.
But OWN plans to focus solely on unscripted fare. Wass and Grasso, both of whom were recruited by Schwartz, are also from the scripted arena, which perhaps led to too much overlap of skills at the cabler.
With the changes, Norman will now play a more active role in the channel’s day-to-day programming. Given her background as the former president of both MTV and VH1, Norman is much more familiar with both the cable programming and unscripted worlds.
In a statement, Norman thanked Schwartz “for her hard work, dedication and passion over the past several months. She assembled a great executive team and grew the vision for OWN out of its infancy.”
OWN — a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications — is set to launch in early 2010 in more than 70 million homes, replacing what is now the Discovery Health Channel. Development on tap include shows featuring “Oprah” regulars such as sex therapist Dr. Laura Berman.
Winfrey herself is set to host “Master Class,” in which she interviews notable newsmakers and stars. There’s also the newsmag “Lisa Ling Investigates” and a docusoap titled “Surfer’s Healing.”