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Brand master Neal joins OWN

Greg Neal has been named vice president and creative director of marketing for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which slated to launch early next year. He’ll report to Liz Dolan, the network’s chief marketing officer.

Neal comes to OWN from his own company, Supertex Studios. Prior to that, he was a vice president at Scripps Networks, where he was credited with being the major creative force behind Food Network’s 2006 primetime rebrand, winning a Promax/B&C/Multichannel News Brand Builder of the Year award. Neal’s a master at what he does so I now officially have big expectations for OWN’s upcoming branding campaign. Good luck, Greg.

OWN continues to hire while rumors swirl that things are a bit unstable at the fledgling network. Sharon Waxman’s The Wrap reports on those rumors in the story I linked to above. True, Robin Schwartz did depart rather unexpectedly after ten months, with the only reason given that it was too crowded at the top. It seems odd to hire a big executive, then hire another one, and then cry “too crowded.”

The Wrap also is right to point out that the last cable network in which Oprah invested – Oxygen – wasn’t really a ringing success. On the other hand, she invested $20 million and then NBC Universal bought the network from Oprah and her partners for $925 million so once again it turned into a nice payout for the queen of daytime.

I don’t have a ton of insight into what’s going on at OWN, but I will say this: it’s really hard to launch a network. It’s one thing to launch a show, such as Oprah, and then launch others – Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz – one at a time, at a relatively leisurely pace. It’s an entirely different thing to launch a network, with programming to fill 24/7/365. It’s crazy expensive and if it crashes, it crashes big.

Starting a network is hectic, thus I’m sure things are in disarray over at OWN. That doesn’t mean it won’t work.