Dismissed Oprah Network Chief Christina Norman Was Ambivalent From The Start [Video]

Christina Norman told the audience at our Innovation Uncensored event last week how she was visibly unsure about joining OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network as its CEO. Even a star-powered, deeply funded network is a lot like a small startup, full of twists and turns. In the latest twist a week later, Norman herself has been let go.

<a href=Christina Norman" />Photo: Brigitte Sire

Now that Oprah Winfrey herself has announced she'll be turning her full attentions to her OWN network and plans to bring along her new show, Oprah's Next Chapter, in Jan 2012, she's overseen the network's first big staff move, too: dismissing CEO Christina Norman. The dismissal comes after the network has failed to outperform the channel it replaced, Discovery Health, Brian Stelter reports today on the New York Times' Media Decoder blog. Peter Liguori, chief operating officer for Discovery Communications, takes over immediately—at least through the rest of 2011.

Norman just told us last week about how her first big visit with Oprah was a flop. Oprah had to cancel—her dog died. In case that wasn't a bad enough omen, a second meeting went horribly, Norman said, adding that she was visibly ambivalent about the opportunity.

Norman was so bad in the interview, she said she remembered Oprah saying, "I thought you needed hormones or something." Norman also admitted: "This is not the kind of job, the kind of person you half-ass it for." She let the bad interview pass but later came to her senses. "I called everybody I knew to get back in it," Norman told her panel's moderator Linda Tischler. But months later, she heard Oprah was still on the hunt for a CEO. So she threw her hat back in the ring. She landed the position.

Until today. Norman never seemed to be kidding herself about the challenges she faced at the network. It is very much a startup, Norman told Fast Company last week, after, it's now being reported, the OWN board had already made the decision to dismiss her—but before the news was announced. "Is it going to work, is it going to fail?" Norman asked about the network. "It's going to be a roller coaster, and how do you sort of lead and navigate through that?"

Video editing by Adam Barenblat

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  • Jim

    Christina always felt like a "failed upward" kind of person. Maybe not that dramatic, but certainly not the Judy McGrath / innovator / figure head / OWN CEO type. We met with her at MTVN - and she had at least 5 people to her left and 5 people to her right. She didn't seem like she understood a lot of what was going on, always defering to someone else in the room, then agreeing with them. That's not usually the flow of the room when you're the most sr exec around the table. At a company like MTVN you can get lost to greater priorities of the business. Is that her story? Her initial interviews with Oprah were more indicative of the outcome - perhaps she should have been more honest with herself. Maybe she'll be able to do that going forward.

  • steve westcott

    Now that Oprah Winfrey herself has announced she'll be turning her full attentions to her OWN network and plans to bring along her new show" Is anyone surprised about this?