There has been a lot of chatter over the past couple of days that Rosie O’Donnell may replace Sharon Osbourne at the judging table of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. “I am very interested in doing America’s Got Talent with Howard Stern and I am talking to them,” she was quoted as saying two days ago, triggering a slew of stories that the former talk show host may have been hand-picked by returning AGT judge Stern to join the show. Well, that is news to the network. “NBC is not in talks with Rosie O’Donnell for America’s Got Talent and has no future plans for her to be a judge,” a spokesperson for the network said. O’Donnell will still appear on NBC but in a different role. “She will be playing herself on an upcoming episode of Smash when Bombshell opens on Broadway,” the spokesperson said.
EXCLUSIVE: The struggling OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network has laid off 30 employees or 20% of its workforce today as the network is restructuring its operations in Los Angeles and New York. The responsibilities handled by the eliminated positions will be redistributed among remaining executives as well as employees of OWN’s owners, Discovery Communications and Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. “It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people’s lives,” said Oprah Winfrey, OWN’s CEO and chief creative officer, “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.”
Departing as part of the layoffs is OWN SVP Production Julie Stern. Additionally, OWN COO John MacDonald went to management a few months ago to let them know he was not planning to renew his contract. He was asked to stay on to help with the transition, which he agreed to and will stay through May. In light of MacDonald’s pending departure, Neal Kirsch, CFO of Discovery’s U.S. networks, will be moving to OWN in the role of chief operating officer and chief financial officer, reporting to OWN presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata. In addition, following the recent exit of SVP Business and Legal Affairs Alan Saxe, Tina Perry, VP Business and Legal Affairs, OWN, will now oversee the department and partner with Lee Bartlett, EVP Global Production Management, Business and Legal Affairs, Discovery. Michelle Holt, VP Production, OWN, will oversee production, replacing Stern; and Ian Parmiter, SVP Marketing, Discovery Ad Sales, will oversee integrated marketing for OWN. “We have been on the air for 15 months, and since September we have gained momentum in ratings and viewership,” Logan said. “Restructuring our business will allow us to build a solid foundation for long-term growth.” After a disappointing start, OWN has posted modest ratings gains in the past few months, culminating with the record 3.5 million viewership for Winfrey’s interview with Whitney Houston’s daughter earlier this month. Winfrey officially took the reins of OWN as CEO last summer when Harpo Studios presidents Logan and Salata were named network presidents.
The stations groups that passed on a daytime syndicated talk show Rosie O’Donnell was shopping two years ago are probably having a “we told you so” moment today as O’Donnell’s daytime talk show on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network got the ax after five low-rated months on the air.
OWN went for broke with the launch of The Rosie Show, whose October premiere, along with that of Oprah’s Lifeclass, were broadcast on five Discovery networks. The struggling and money-losing OWN spent some $10 million to market the two shows, whose debut was touted as an unofficial OWN relaunch. That $10 million went where the previous $250 million+ in investment from Discovery went — down the drain. After an OK start with 500,000 viewers tuning in to the premiere, Rosie quickly lost more than half of that to average under 200,000 viewers for most of its run, while Lifeclass was pretty much DOA. Why did O’Donnell, who had two successful previous daytime talk show stints under her belt, on her own syndicated show and on ABC’s The View, fizzle so quickly?
Rosie O’Donnell’s new daily talk show on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is looking to shake off lackluster ratings with a new executive producer and a new set. Shane Farley, who worked with O’Donnell on her previous Emmy-winning syndicated talker The Rosie O’Donnell Show has come on as executive producer. He replaces Page Hurwitz, who as executive producer oversaw The Rosie Show‘s launch and first three months on the air. Farley has more than 15 years of experience producing talk shows, most recently Rachael Ray. The Rosie Show kicked off 2012 with a new smaller and brightly colored set. It fits about 70 audience members, about a fifth of the original set, and is inspired by Rosie’s art studio at her home in New York. The radical downsizing does not allow for a band setup, though OWN said that “musical director Katreese Barnes will continue to be fully engaged behind the scenes, creating original music for the show, including digital shorts and musical parodies.” “Having worked with Shane for a number of years, I knew he’d be a great addition to the team as we continue to develop the vision for the show,” O’Donnell said.
Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav have run out of excuses: With their unofficial relaunch today of OWN, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if their struggling joint venture fails to show a big improvement in the ratings following a dismal 3Q. In its targeted demo, women 25-54, OWN delivered a rating of .16 — down 16% vs. the same period last year when the channel was still Discovery Health. OWN may have set a deceptively low bar for itself; word is that it cut back on marketing in preparation for the relaunch. Still, the channel is betting everything on Oprah’s star power — and, to a lesser extent, Rosie O’Donnell’s — and that will be put to the test beginning today with the launch of The Rosie Show (7-8 PM) and Oprah’s Lifeclass (8-9 PM). Winfrey’s program, built on clips from her syndicated talk show, begins with one of her classics: for an episode about “ego,” she will include scenes from the show where she illustrated how much weight she lost from a liquid protein diet by wheeling in a wagon filled with 70 pounds of fat. Discovery will air both shows today on TLC, Investigation Discovery, Discovery Fit & Health and Planet Green as well as OWN. The joint venture also is spending more than $10M for marketing, not including free ad time on Discovery-owned networks. The cash is going for ads on hit shows such as The X Factor and Dancing With The Stars, as well as radio and billboards, and websites including Yahoo, Google, People.com, Technorati, and TVGuide.com.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
TCA: OWN Announces Premiere Dates For ‘Rosie’ & ‘OWN Your Life’
Oprah Winfrey blew through the TCA press tour today to address critics at a morning session promoting OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, having been freshly installed as CEO of the network owned by Discovery Communications. She’d acknowledged earlier this summer that she hadn’t been dedicating all of her energies to OWN and aimed to change that going forward, in part to address its growing pains in the form of falling ratings. ”In my new role, I am focusing on the unity of Harpo and OWN, aligning them together,” she told the gathered critics. To that end, she introduced OWN’s new co-presidents Sheri Salata and Erik Logan, former heads at Harpo Studios who joined the new network in June. It’s no secret that OWN has struggled to find its footing and an identity, with a lineup of cheesy reality shows and little programming flow. Key to that new push is the hiring of Rosie O’Donnell, whom Winfrey also introduced today.
O’Donnell charmed the room with her wisecracking, no-nonsense style, discussing how her coming to OWN went down when she’d been courted by much larger and deeper-pocketed networks. ”I called my agent and told him to call the Oprah people, because I wanted to go to OWN,” she said. “And you know how agents only care about what you want to do, not finances? My agent was thrilled that I wanted to go to basic cable and not one of the major networks. … Oprah came in with a bunch of people from her staff and asked, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ And I’m like, ‘Because it’s you.’ With Oprah, it’s a huge stamp of approval, almost like being knighted in a way.”
The Chicago soundstage that has housed Oprah Winfrey’s syndicated talk show for years won’t go vacant after Winfrey tapes her last show, slated to air May 25. Rosie O’Donnell, who will host a daily talk show for Winfrey’s new cable network OWN will move into the Harpo Studios facility. O’Donnell …
Four months ago, Rosie O’Donnell, who hosted the syndicated The Rosie O’Donnell Show and did a stint on ABC’s The View, teamed with syndication veterans Dick Robertson and Scott Carlin for a new syndicated daytime talk show. Now they have found a buyer, Oprah Winfrey’s upstart cable network OWN, a co-venture with Discovery Communications. Interesting move by Winfrey, who once competed with O’Donnell for the title of daytime talk show queen at the height of The Rosie O’Donnell Show in the late 1990s.
O’Donnell is a polarizing figure with strong political views and aggressive style who had previously indicated that she planned to stay true to herself on her new show. So giving her a daily talker on OWN, a network built on the premise of inspiring women and helping them better their lives, is somewhat surprising. But the description of the new show supplied by OWN seems to indicate that there will be more of the 1990s “queen of nice” bubbly persona than the darker, more controversial O’Donnell we’ve seen in the final stage of her daytime talk show, on The View as well as on her radio show on Sirius XM.