September 22, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: Armstrong Comes Clean, and Kucinich Enters the "Fox Lair"

Lance Armstrong finally had his confessional moment Thursday, acknowledging in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for much of his career. Juliet Macur writes in an analysis in The New York Times that the cyclist mixed humility and regret with a resolute rejection of some of the charges against him. Alessandra Stanley, reviewing the show as television fare, called the interview “strangely low on energy and emotion,’’ and that while Ms. Winfrey got some answers, she didn’t “pierce his armor.’’ Brian Stelter writes that getting such a high-profile interview could be a breakthrough moment for Ms. Winfrey’s struggling network, OWN.

Two and a half weeks after emerging from bankruptcy, the Tribune Company got a new chief executive, Brian Stelter reports. It named Peter Liguori, a longtime television executive, to the position. Mr. Ligouri previously worked, among other companies, at News Corporation, where he oversaw the popular FX channel then became chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting. Tribune Co. is expected to sell off some of its newspapers and focus more directly on its television stations.

The real-life hoax involving the fake girlfriend of the Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o has a striking parallel in the television entertainment world, Mary Pilon reports. An MTV show called “Catfish’’ deals each episode with a case of digital duplicity, when a person who has hooked up in a relationship online discovers that the other person has been deceptive about his or her identity. A so-called catfish is the person who orchestrates the fake online identity.

Politico reports on the debut of Dennis Kucinich on Thursday night as a contributor to Fox News, a pairing that matches the famously liberal former congressman with the conservative news network. Mr. Kucinich, who will be a regular paid contributor, called himself a “rooster in Fox lair’’ while the host, Bill O’Reilly, called his guest “the same left-wing nut we know and love,’’ the article reports. The two engaged in a discussion about gun control.

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Media Decoder Blog: Tribune Company Names Peter Liguori as Chief After Ending Bankruptcy

Peter Liguori, a longtime television executive, was named the new chief executive of the Tribune Company on Thursday, two and a half weeks after the newspaper and television station owner emerged from a wrenching four-year bankruptcy process.

Mr. Liguori’s appointment had been expected for more than a month.

Analysts expect Tribune to sell some of its newspaper assets and rely more heavily on its television stations and Web sites as it restructures itself in the months ahead.

Tribune’s newspaper holdings include The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, Mr. Liguori acknowledged that there were potential buyers for some of the newspapers and that “it is my fiduciary responsibility to hear them out and see if in fact their interest is real and their commitment is concomitant with the value of these newspapers.” But he also emphasized an internal goal to maximize revenue from the newspapers.

In an e-mail message to employees, Mr. Liguori brought up the television stations first, saying, “We must find efficient ways to create our own fresh programming.” When he brought up the newspapers, he said, “We must accelerate our digital offerings and get paid for them.”

Mr. Liguori is best known for his time at News Corporation, where he ran the popular cable channel FX and then became the chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting. In 2009, he joined Discovery Communications as chief operating officer.

Eddy W. Hartenstein, Tribune’s previous chief executive, will remain the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and will be a special adviser to Mr. Liguori’s office, Tribune said Thursday.

The company also said Bruce Karsh, the president of the private equity firm Oaktree Capital Management, had been elected the chairman of Tribune’s new board. Oaktree owns nearly a quarter of Tribune. Mr. Karsh said in a statement: “The company is well-positioned across its markets and now has a strong balance sheet, significant liquidity and low debt, so there is a lot of opportunity ahead.”

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 18, 2013

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated when The Los Angeles Times interview with Peter Liguori occurred. It was Thursday, not last week.

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Media Decoder: Oprah Winfrey Network Chief Is Out

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Christina Norman, left, with Oprah Winfrey and David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, celebrating the start of OWN on Jan. 1, 2011. Ms. Norman is exiting the channel.

4:06 p.m. | Updated | In an admission of dissatisfaction with the ratings for the four-month-old OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, the head of that channel, Christina Norman, has been dismissed, the channel said Friday.

Effective immediately, Peter Liguori, the chief operating officer for Discovery Communications, will take over the channel on an interim basis, through the rest of the year, if not longer.

Discovery and Ms. Winfrey jointly own and operate OWN. The decision to dismiss Ms. Norman was made by the board that oversees OWN in the last few weeks, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The shake-up comes amid disappointment at Discovery and at OWN about low ratings for most of its programming. On a total day basis, OWN is barely outperforming the channel it replaced, Discovery Health, despite hundreds of million of dollars of investment.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, acknowledged last week that the channel has had a “slower start” than expected.

In its first four months, OWN attracted 148,000 viewers at any given time, according to The Nielsen Company, only 7,000 more than Discovery Health did in the same time period last year. In the prime-time hours, OWN averaged 297,000 viewers, 44,000 more than Discovery Health.

In an e-mail message to the staff at OWN on Friday, Ms. Winfrey said that Ms. Norman’s “hard work, passion and leadership were instrumental in getting OWN on the air,” but added, “Given all that we have to do, the OWN Board felt it was necessary that we have a different kind of leadership in place for the next phase of OWN’s growth.”

Before becoming the Discovery chief operating officer in 2009, Mr. Liguori was the president of entertainment for the Fox Broadcasting Company.

Mr. Liguori said in an interview Friday afternoon that this was “a natural transformational moment” for OWN.

He said he would apply the lessons of the last four months to new programming. One lesson, he said, has been that straightforward how-to shows and darker subject matter don’t work as well as shows that are more clearly entertaining. “I think you’re going to see more joy on the network,” he said.

“Every single one of Oprah’s shows should be purposeful,” he emphasized. “But the price of entry for that purpose — that show’s intent, its message, its takeaway — is that you are entertained.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “It’s going to be compelling characters, storytelling with stakes, and then at the end of the show, you realize you have learned either some moral or practical lesson.”

Ms. Norman did not respond to a request for comment on Friday. She was the second chief executive of OWN, having taken over in January 2009 while the channel was trying — and at times struggling — to start up.

While Ms. Winfrey provided the live-your-best-life vision for the channel, it was Ms. Norman, a former president of MTV, who executed on that vision. She said in a prepared statement Friday, “As I move on to my next challenge, I am confident the strong foundation we have built will position the network to achieve great things.”

OWN is being closely watched in the television industry because it bears Oprah’s imprimatur and because steering viewers to a new channel is almost always a struggle. Adding to that struggle, Ms. Winfrey is not regularly appearing on the channel yet because she is busy winding down her syndicated talk show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” The final episode of the talk show will be shown on May 25.

Citing the end date, Ms. Winfrey wrote in her e-mail message, “I will soon be able to turn my full energies to working with you all.” She added, “I remain confident that the vision/mission that we established for OWN will be achieved — and we will do it together — as a team.”

OWN executives had planned to start Ms. Winfrey’s next show, called “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” sometime in the fall. But Mr. Liguori said Friday that the start date would now be January 2012. Ms. Winfrey will be taking a vacation after her syndicated show ends, he said, and then turning her attention to “Next Chapter.”

“Big ideas, especially one from Oprah, shouldn’t be microwaved, they should be slow-baked,” he said.

Despite the ratings shortfalls, OWN is expected to be profitable in its first year. Mr. Zaslav reiterated last week that Discovery was “fully committed to the brand.”

“As we said in the beginning, it’s a long-term play building a channel,” he said.

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