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Oprah Winfrey Network names Lisa Erspamer as creative chief

Erspamer's edge over predecessors is experience working directly with the demanding Winfrey. She is currently co-executive producer of Winfrey's daytime talk show.

November 05, 2009|Meg James

The highly anticipated but delayed OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network will soon have a chief creative executive.

Lisa Erspamer, who will join the Los Angeles operation in January, has something that executives who preceded her lacked: experience working directly for the demanding Winfrey. Erspamer is co-executive producer of Winfrey's daytime talk show, a position she has held for three years.

OWN said Wednesday that Erspamer would work with other executives to "create, shape and drive programming and ensure Oprah's unique editorial voice across all platforms."

The network, a joint venture between Winfrey and Discovery Communications -- has stumbled during its two-year development in organizing the right executive team. Though OWN still does not have a launch date, it has had plenty of turmoil: In the last seven months, three programmers, including the original president, have left. Early this year former MTV President Christina Norman was tapped as CEO.

The channel was supposed to have launched by now. The delay has led some to question Winfrey's commitment to OWN.

The selection of Erspamer, 42, suggests that Winfrey is assuming a more active role in its operations and that she might be making plans for life after her long-running talk show. Winfrey is expected this year to announce an end date for her show on ABC, executives close to the situation said.

Winfrey is expected to stay with the show through May 2011, marking the end of its 25th season.

Erspamer, a 15-year veteran of Winfrey's Harpo Productions, has produced hundreds of episodes of the talk show.

Tim Bennett, Harpo's president, praised Erspamer.

"She has the ability to take an idea and make it bigger and better," he said. "And above all, she is someone who really gets Oprah and connects with her on a soulful, creative level."

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meg.james@latimes.com

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