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Erspamer exits OWN

The merry-go-round at Oprah Winfrey’s US cablenet OWN continues with the departure of executive VP of production and development Lisa Erspamer.

Her exit is the latest in a long line of comings and goings at the Discovery Communications-backed channel, which has struggled for ratings since launch a year ago.

Discovery issued a statement saying Erspamer was “leaving the company by mutual agreement to pursue other opportunities.” The news was first broken by Deadline

Erspamer is a long-time Winfrey collaborator, having co-executive produced The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is said to be a personal friend of the talkshow queen.

But she had no network experience and leaves with OWN struggling to outperform the Discovery Health channel it replaced. Ironically, US reports say OWN has brought in Discovery Health exec Rita Mullin to replace her on an interim basis.

Erspamer is the latest in a long line of execs to have left the channel and comes soon after programming and development executive Rod Aissa joined cablenet Oxygen earlier this month.

Winfrey took over as OWN’s CEO and chief creative officer last summer, replacing Peter Liguori, who had stepped in on an interim basis for Cristina Norman, who was axed in May.  Liguori left his chief operator role at Discovery at the end of the year.

Other departures have included programming VPs Maria Grasso, Nina Wass and Tomothy Kuryak and original president Robin Schwartz, who all left in 2009.

Discovery has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into OWN but hasn’t yet seen major returns. Earlier this month the factual giant urged investors to be patient with the channel, despite financial losses.

One bright stop for the channel came on January 8 when it recorded its best ever ratings with the second episode of primetime series Oprah’s Next Chapter. It took 1.6 million total viewers and ranked third in its 210.00 slot for ad-supported cable.

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