Logan, Salata take over as co-prexys

Turns out there’s only one person Oprah Winfrey wants running her cable network: Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey formally took the reins of OWN on Wednesday as Discovery Communications announced that she would now serve as CEO and chief creative officer. She had been chairman since founding the venture with Discovery in 2008.

OWN has struggled to find its sea legs with viewers since its bow in January. It remains to be seen how well OWN will perform under Winfrey’s leadership, but the move acknowledges one important thing: the buck stops with Oprah. It’s no secret that Discovery topper David Zaslav had been pushing Winfrey to be more hands-on from the start.

“I am ready to dedicate my full creative energy and focus as the full time CEO of OWN,” Winfrey said in a statement. “By aligning the mission, talent and leadership of Erik (Logan), Sheri (Salata), the OWN team, the Harpo team, along with expertise of David Zaslav, Peter (Liguori) and all of Discovery behind us, we can unleash the full potential of the network.”

Discovery chief operating officer Peter Liguori has been managing the day-to-day unleashing at the fledgling cabler since May; Liguori’s responsibilities at the parent company include all of its joint ventures, such as Hasbro partnership the Hub and Sony/Imax/Discovery 3D network 3Net. Both launched recently and also require Liguori’s attention, but when former OWN chief exec Christina Norman was ousted in May, Discovery needed someone to take the reins immediately.

Zaslav admitted disappointment in the net’s performance during the net’s quarterly earnings call in late April, and the ratings have been down year-on-year against its predecessor net, Discovery Health. In June, OWN reportedly offered extra ad minutes to advertisers as make-goods for the shortfall (execs predicted a 0.3 share in women 25-54 in total day; the net logged a 0.1 share). It’s not impressive for a network that cost Discovery a total of $215 million through Q1 of 2011 alone.

News of Winfrey’s appointment did not do much to lift Discovery’s stock, which closed down 6¢ to $41.82.

With her syndie show drawing to a close in May, Winfrey is now free to give her viewers what they want most: more Oprah. In addition, Liguori told Variety in May that he was looking at “changing the filter to say ‘What are they going to watch besides ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show?'” To that end, OWN has greenlit several new series, including “Don’t Tell the Bride,” and “The Dr. Laura Berman Show.” The net is also focusing on Lisa Ling, who delivered its first bona fide success in “Our America With Lisa Ling.” “We learned a lot from the first 16 or 17 weeks. My job is to put all of that learning to use,” Liguori said.

OWN has focused on ratings gains in recent weeks, in June trumpeting 13 consecutive weeks of demo growth for “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes” and narrowing focus to Sunday evenings, rather than the entire week.

The appointments are effective immediately.Salata, Logan and Winfrey will continue working with Liguori as he phases out his day-to-day duties.

Winfrey remained incommunicado throughout Wednesday, except via press release, as did Discovery brass and newly appointed co-prexies Erik Logan, a Harpo vet and former radio exec, and Sheri Salata, who exec produced “The Oprah Winfrey Show” from 2006 through its finale.

Logan has been with Harpo since 2008 as exec veep.

Salata is a long-time Harpo-ite whose tenure at the net began in 1995 as promotions producer and has held several positions of increasing responsibility at the org.

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