No Holiday Break for Reality Shows

Oxygen, WE tv Seek Success With Yuletide Debuts
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Amid the multitude of female-skewing holiday movies and specials airing in December, networks such as WE tv and Oxygen are giving viewers the gift of new, original regularly scheduled programming.

Women-targeted programmers said they aren’t afraid of competing against one-off holiday movies — and they’re eager to take advantage of reruns airing on broadcast networks.

“There are a lot of Christmas movies and Christmas specials, but that’s not for everybody,” Jerry Leo, executive vice president, program strategy, Lifestyle Networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, said. “I think the reality fan is still looking for other options.”

Two new reality series on NBCU’s Oxygen — Finding My Father, which tracks young women searching for their biological dads; and Rich in Faith, which follows Pastor Rich Wilkerson of Vous Church in Miami and his wife, DawnChere — both fit into the religious, heartwarming, family themes of the Christmas holiday, Leo said. In prior years, new seasons of Project Runway and The Real Housewives of Atlanta drew big numbers against holiday fare, he added.

“Hopefully the holidays will actually help us by creating that kind of environment and vibe for the shows,” Leo said.

WE tv last week launched the fourth seasons of two popular reality series, Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars and Tamar and Vince, the Braxton Family Values spinoff.

The holiday season provides a great opportunity to siphon off viewers who have been watching broadcast TV, WE tv president Marc Juris said. “On Thursday, when [ABC’s] Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder are in reruns, maybe 5 million women become available.”

Launching new and returning shows in December also allows the network to promote its January fare, he said. The network on Jan. 7 will debut reality series Growing Up Hip Hop. On Jan. 8, Ex Isle, starring Carmen Electra, will show individuals how to get over an ex.

“We want to use every opportunity in a crowded marketplace to bring in new viewers and to re-establish ourselves with our super-fans,” Juris said.

Still, women-targeted networks will face tough competition from holiday fare on Hallmark Channel and ABC Family.

ABC Family, with its “25 Days of Christmas” programming stunt, was easily the most watched network among women 18- 49, women 25-54 and women 18-34 during the first week of December (Nov. 30 to Dec. 6).

Undaunted, Leo said Oxygen plans to run its original content each week throughout the holiday season without any breaks.

“We don’t take our foot off the gas for even one week during the holidays,” he said. “If you’re into the storyline, you want to stay with it.”

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