Former MTV President Christina Norman has been named CEO of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a concept that Winfrey came up with back in 1992.
“This is the job I’ve been working toward my entire career,” Norman says. “To be building a new channel inspired by Oprah Winfrey and backed by Discovery Communications is a challenge I welcome, and I am thrilled to bring their vision for OWN to life.”
As CEO, Norman will oversee all business and creative areas of OWN, the new cable channel and multiplatform media venture. She will work closely with Robin Schwartz, president, OWN Television, in building the new cable network slated to launch in late 2009/early 2010 on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.
OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes, on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. The venture will also include Winfrey’s Website, Oprah.com.
“I’ve always had the utmost admiration and respect for Christina’s innovative strategies and management style. She is a proven leader. Her shared values, passion and enthusiasm make her a natural fit for OWN’s emerging platforms. We’re thrilled to have her,” Oprah says.
Norman, a veteran of MTV Networks for more than 17 years, was named president of MTV in 2005 and oversaw all aspects of the network’s creative and business endeavors, providing leadership, strategy, and management. Before that, she was president of MTV’s sister network, VH1. Norman began her career in the commercial production business in New York in the ’80s, and began her tenure with MTV as a freelance production coordinator.
Winfrey’s dream of a network has been a long time in the making.
On May 24, 1992, she wrote in her journal that she wanted to create a network called OWN. She transferred her thoughts to a journal that this new network would provide useful, meaningful programming.
In 2007, when her development group asked if she would meet with David Zaslav, Winfrey admitted that she didn’t even know who he was at the time, but admired his work. The recently installed president and CEO of Discovery Communications, which operates a series of cable networks, had been responsible for the Planet Earth series that fascinated her.
The admiration was mutual. Zaslav was a fan of Oprah’s media message, “Live your Best Life,” and proposed a 24-hour opportunity to encourage TV viewers to think differently about health, relationships, and other aspects of their lives.
“I got up from the meeting and said, ‘David, come with me. I want to show you something.’” Winfrey then revealed the prophetic page she had ripped from her journal. Oddly enough, she found it in a desk drawer she was clearing just a few days before the meeting. “Absolute divine order,” she said.
Winfrey’s formula for success, which also includes a solid business team and sound financial controls, has taken Harpo Inc. from a small, five-person production company to a more than 400-employee multimedia conglomerate