New York -- CNNfn last week announced an Internet alliance
with womenCONNECT.com, sparking
speculation that the move might be a precursor to Time Warner Inc.'s planned
women's-oriented cable network.
CNNfn president Lou Dobbs and womenCONNECT.com president
Susan DeFife said at a news conference here that CNNfn.com will add content and news from
womenCONNECT.com and provide financial-news coverage to the women's Web site.
As part of the "broad strategic business
partnership," CNNfn is also buying a minority equity stake in womenCONNECT.com, Dobbs
In becoming the latest company enthralled with the Web's
burgeoning female audience,
CNNfn allied itself with an Internet site that bills itself
as "The source for women in business."
That separates its content from that of competing sites --
such as Lifetime Television's site, iVillage.com and the site planned by Oxygen Media Inc.
-- which are only partially made up of financial information and advice, and which target
a broader segment than women in business.
Oxygen is the first women's venture to link cable and
Internet content from the outset.
Eyeing similar linkage, Dobbs indicated that the alliance
with the five-year-old womenCONNECT.com should yield programming for the CNNfn cable
network, as well.
Off the podium, Dobbs downplayed the possibility that this
alliance might serve as the precursor to Time Warner's women's network. "This is
purely a CNNfn initiative," he added. "I leave Time Warner to Gerry [Levin, the
Initial word on Time Warner's proposed women's channel
surfaced in March, although sources at Turner Broadcasting System Inc. would not comment
on the speculation, nor on reports that Turner production executive Pat Mitchell might
head the network.
One MSO source said at the time that the proposed network
might well be a ploy to get an equity stake in Oxygen.
Oxygen faces an uphill battle for cable carriage, but CEO
Geraldine Laybourne recently said she had signed some unidentified MSOs.
Tele-Communications Inc. (now AT&T Broadband &
Internet Services) said last fall that it would roll out Oxygen in 7 million homes after
Oxygen had secured distribution in another 5 million homes.
If Turner did plan a women's network, Oxygen could have
trouble picking up Time Warner Cable's 12 million subscribers.
Even without a Turner network, there's already considerable
competition for women, with the Internet component soaring in importance now that women
represent one-half of the Web's users, as DeFife pointed out.
Lifetime plans to add more financial advice and other
information to its cable and Web programming.
"You'll see a lot of change on cable and on the Web
site," Lifetime CEO Carole Black said, "as we add more informational services
for women, more news and information programming" on the network, with links to the
Internet. Health and family issues will be other areas of growing importance, she added.
Laybourne two weeks ago outlined her own online/Web plans
for Oxygen at the Web Advertising '99 conference here. Oxygen's cable/online content will
include The Hive, talk-oriented morning fare; Working Lunch, targeting
working mothers and entrepreneurs; and entertainment fare in the evening.
The financial-focused area of Oxygen's Web site, dubbed
"Ka-ching," will allow consumers to talk with experts and take advantage of
unspecified e-commerce opportunities.