Discovery Communications is shelling out $70 million to Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo, Inc. to gain an additional 24.5 percent stake in OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, a joint venture between the two companies. As a result of the deal, Discovery now has a more than 70 percent ownership stake in the network. Discovery’s increased stake in OWN comes as it moves ahead on plans to complete its acquisition of Scripps early next year. If that deal goes through it would add Food Network and HGTV to Discovery’s current women-focused channels, which include TLC and ID in addition to OWN. Discovery would then have a controlling interest in five of the top pay-TV networks for women, representing a 20 percent share of women watching primetime pay-TV in the U.S. Harpo will retain a “significant minority interest” in OWN and Winfrey will continue in her role as CEO. “Creating OWN and seeing it flourish, supported by Discovery and a rapidly growing group of the finest storytellers in film and television, is one of my proudest achievements,” said Winfrey. “I’m thrilled with the network’s success and excited about this next chapter in our partnership.”
According to a report in today’s Variety, Comcast is shutting down Plaxo, an online address-book synchronization service that the the company claimed at one point had more than 50 million registered accounts. Comcast acquired Plaxo in a 2008 deal that was reportedly in the $150 million to $170 million range, with hopes that the service would become a major social-media property. Founded in 2002, the service consolidated users’ contacts across multiple sources, automatically updating information across devices and platforms. It also allowed users to share personal info and photos. While Comcast’s plan was to turn Plaxo into a medium that would “bring the social media experience to mainstream consumers,” it never gained traction beyond its use as a way to sync contacts. “While it’s sad to say goodbye to Plaxo, we’re eager to put more focus into our expanding core products within the Xfinity family,” Plaxo said in a statement on its website. Plaxo will not be available after Dec. 31, and the company will start to purge user data the following day.
Theano Apostolou is stepping down from her position as head of communications at premium pay-TV channel Starz. Apostolou joined Starz in 2011 as senior vice president of communications and was promoted to executive vice president of the department in 2013. Before that, she was senior VP of publicity, talent relations and promotional events for AMC. “Theano has played an integral role in making Starz a global entertainment company,” Starz president Chris Albrecht said. “Her creativity and passionate commitment to our success was a driving force in our evolution.” She will continue to consult for Starz until the company finds a replacement.