Oprah Winfrey has long been an undisputed force on camera without any need for a co-host. Behind the scenes, it appears the 58-year-old media icon requires a little more support.
Her OWN joint venture with Discovery Communications is getting help from three Discovery executives who are taking management responsibilities at the venture. More may follow as Winfrey and Discovery try to fix the ailing venture.
As previously announced, Neal Kirsch, who has been chief financial officer of Discovery's 14 U.S. networks since 2003, is moving to OWN as its new chief operating officer and chief financial officer. Kirsch, 47, joined Discovery Communications in 1994 as a project manager in network operations for the company's international division. The Bethesda, Md. native will move to Los Angeles for his new role, said Erik Logan, one of the presidents at both OWN and Winfrey's production company Harpo.
More Discovery employees could join OWN, Logan said, as Discovery's chief executive David Zaslav searches for a way to make the network profitable.
Discovery Chief Zaslav said 'You guys need to tell us what we can do to help'
"David Zaslav has really opened his doors and said 'You guys need to tell us what we can do to help,'" Logan said. "We're talking to Discovery every day, so there are a number of opportunities where we may use them and a number of opportunities where we may not."
Winfrey will remain in her role as chief executive and chief creative officer of the network. OWN launched in 2011 replacing the Discovery Health Channel.
Kirsch's involvement with OWN has been in the works since the middle of last year, said a person close to Discovery. Kirsch was not available for comment.
"When Oprah and her team started asking themselves what that they want their network to be and how they can lean on their partner company to make that happen, Neal started consulting for them," that person said. "Since then Neal has been working closely with the three to come up with plans for what a profitable network looks like, the structure and the staffing levels."
In addition to Kirsch's move to OWN, Ian Parmiter, senior vice president of marketing for Discovery's U.S. ad sales will now also oversee U.S. ad sales marketing at OWN. Lee Bartlett, Discovery's executive vice president of global production management, business and legal affairs, will share oversight of business and legal affairs with OWN vice president, Tina Perry.
Parmiter joined Discovery in 2000 as vice president of integrated ad sales marketing. Before that he worked in brand management and marketing for Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc. Bartlett joined Discovery in 2010 in his current role. Before that he worked as a managing director of ITV Studios under ITV plc, the largest commercial television network in the U.K.
Write to Damian.Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com