Interview with John MacDonald Mapping OWN Television Networks Social Media Plan – Roger Maloney

John MacDonald

I had the pleasure to interview Mr. John MacDonald who joined OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network as chief operating officer, EVP programming and digital, OWN in June 2010. In his position, MacDonald is responsible for program planning, digital strategy, business development and the day to day operations of the network. John came to OWN from MTV Networks where he was responsible for the development and implementation of overall programming strategy for four basic cable networks: MTV, MTV2, MTV Tr3s and mtvU.

Prior to MTV, MacDonald was president of content and programming, VEOH Networks, a venture-backed web video portal. He also served as general manager, Fine Living Network, where he was responsible for all aspects of managing the original lifestyle brand, including the linear cable television network, related website, and the development of related ancillary businesses. MacDonald was also a member of the senior executive team who launched Fine Living in 2002.

Twentieth Century FOX/Twentieth Television, was home to John for six years, where he held various positions, lastly as executive vice president, program enterprises & cable sales. Before joining FOX, he was as an associate at McKinsey & Company, Inc.

Roger -Since it worked at OWN how can new cable networks use social media to reach audiences?

John– Oprah is very interested in connecting with her audience more directly than was possible with her talk show, and developed shows like Oprah’s LifeClass with an explicit desire to leverage social media to engage in a discussion with her audience. The ratings of the show and the online engagement demonstrate that, at least for certain types of programs, social media can become part of the fabric of the show, not only a way to promote and create awareness for the program.

Roger- Do feel there is much engagement for audiences to handle with all these platforms to view content?

John– I think the platforms are maturing and providing increasingly sophisticated yet simple ways to consume and connect with programming. Increased engagement is particularly important to the “super fans” for whom simply watching a program is not enough to satisfy their relationship with a program, its characters and the world in which they exist. The level of intensity of this engagement will vary by type of show and audience.

Roger If you had to design your own cable channel today what would it be in today’s digital age?

John- I would focus on creating a platform that makes it simpler to discover new content, and move away from a model that attempts to attract an audience 24/7 as linear services, I believe, will become increasingly supplanted by on-demand services, (as evidenced by the current behaviour with DVRs). It will become increasingly difficult for established linear services, (let alone new services), to compete with on-demand platforms, and the linear services will become more focused on aiding discovery of new content, that will be consumed on demand by viewers on their schedules.

Roger Maloney is the VP of Vanguarde Consulting Group and company that prepare small business for the digital age. Roger can be reached at


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