Jun 6, 2011


It’s been just a week since cable television’s big ol’ revolving door of bosses stopped spinning, following the unexpected departure of MTV Networks’ Judy McGrath, and the unsurprising ousting of OWN’s Christina Norman. So why these two women? Why these two networks?  Why now?

Despite outward differences, MTV and OWN are at surprisingly similar crossroads. By entertainment standards, they are, at 30 and 25 years old respectively (if you count Oprah’s reign on daytime), aging brands. They had grass roots origins that became thwarted by the dominance of their parent organizations. But most importantly, their leaders came from backgrounds of creativity over cash. McGrath and Norman put content first, knowing the business would follow.

To say that the exits of McGrath and Norman are gender-related is too much of a generalization. But one can’t deny that those stepping in to temporarily fill their shoes – Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Discovery COO Peter Ligouri – prioritize things in a slightly different…slightly stereotypically-alpha-male order: money first, content second.

When it comes to McGrath, maybe, after three decades at the same organization, she was ready for a change. When it comes to Norman, maybe, after two years and the biggest (and potentially most stressful) cable launch this century, she simply lost her fire or just took the fall as OWN’s low-ratings scapegoat. All of these reasons could be “the reason.” But at the end of the day, the health of the business has taken precedence over the quality and creativity of the content.  A changing of the guards indeed.