Murano Rises to Oxygen Presidency - Multichannel

Murano Rises to Oxygen Presidency

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Oxygen Media today will install Mary Murano as one of four presidents working under founder and CEO Geraldine Laybourne.

Murano, who has framed affiliate agreements for the female-oriented Oxygen network since its launch in 2000, will be named president of distribution, up from executive vice president of affiliate sales.

“I've learned so much from Mary Murano about building teams, about being a good leader and about being a good partner,” Lisa Gersh, an Oxygen co-founder and now its chief operating officer, said of the distribution executive who was hired away from Rainbow Media in 1999.

Gersh said Murano “is the person who is going to be able to lead us in distribution of our content on multiple platforms,” not just on cable.

In her new role, Murano will have the responsibility of working agreements with Internet video sites, mobile-phone services and other providers to get Oxygen shows, programming and content to its primary audience, women.

Oxygen has grown to reach 71.7 million households, about seven times the distribution it had when it started almost exactly seven years ago. Murano's goal is to push past 75 million pay TV homes this year.

A big win a year ago illustrated why she's become president of Oxygen's relationships with distributors of all formats of content.

In January 2006, EchoStar Communications, owner of the Dish Network satellite-TV service, dropped Oxygen rival Lifetime from its nationwide lineup in a carriage dispute that erupted New Year's Eve. For a time, Lifetime lost access to about 8.5 million viewers.

By mid-month, Oxygen had signed a deal to be carried on Dish for the first time.

“The reason that we were able to do a deal with EchoStar at that moment in time is because Mary had been out to Denver on many trips the summer before that opportunity arose, trying to come up with the structure of a deal that worked,” Gersh said. When the opening appeared, “there was already a deal structure in place and a relationship in place. Even though we weren't being carried, we had a relationship with EchoStar. And 61 hours later, we had a deal.”

Oxygen still trails Lifetime, which reaches 92.7 million households, among networks aimed at women. But it leads Rainbow Media's WE, which reaches 62.9 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Oxygen's other presidents are Debby Beece (programming and marketing); Geoffrey Darby (interactive content); and Gersh (overall operations).

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