Sheri Salata, 80BBA, president of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network and Harpo Studios, is one of the most influential executives in modern media—responsible for television programming that has left an indelible imprint on American culture.
Salata earned a bachelor’s degree of business administration in marketing in 1980 from the University of Iowa. Following a six-year career in business and marketing, she took her first television job at an advertising firm in Chicago. In 1995, she began at Harpo Studios as a promotion producer and held several positions of increasing responsibility. Combining business and broadcasting acumen with her Midwestern work ethic, Salata climbed the ranks of Winfrey’s empire to become executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2006 and one of the most powerful women in entertainment today.
For five seasons, Salata worked closely with Winfrey to guide the creative vision and mission of one of the most successful daytime television shows in history. The show often tackled relevant social issues, such as poverty and sexual abuse, bringing neglected topics into national conversation. Winfrey recognizes Salata as an integral part of her success, praising her passion, leadership, integrity, and positive outlook. "The final season of the Oprah Show was an enormous undertaking, and I couldn’t have done it without Sheri at my side," said Winfrey. "Each season, we raised the bar higher and higher; there was seemingly no limit to how high Sheri knew we could climb."
Following the show’s finale in 2011, Salata and Erik Logan took the helm as presidents of OWN and Harpo Studios. Today, they oversee more than 500 people in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, who create thousands of hours of award-winning programming. In 2012, OWN’s original series Super Soul Sunday won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Series and, in 2013, Oprah’s Lifeclass won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media - Social TV Experience.
Thanks to Salata’s leadership at OWN, the network continues to experience increased ratings and viewership. The Hollywood Reporter named Salata to its 2013 Women in Entertainment: Power 100 list, and for three consecutive years, she has been featured on the CableFAX 100 list of cable television’s leaders and pioneers.
Salata credits Iowa for giving her an edge in the media industry by providing her with a solid business background. Loyal to her alma mater, she returned to Iowa City in spring 2013 to speak at the UI Tippie College of Business commencement ceremony, encouraging students to find their passion and keep their minds open to possibilities. "Life is a joyful unfolding, and there’s a magic and destiny that comes with the unexpected serendipity," she said. "If you focus on that, you will end up in the kind of work that makes you happy."
In nearly two decades with Harpo Studios, Sheri Salata has followed her own advice, using her gifts of leadership, creativity, and compassion to bring thought-provoking television into America’s homes.
Salata is a member of the UI Alumni Association’s Directors’ Club Honors Circle.