Oxygen Brands a VOD Pair

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Looking to build additional brands, Oxygen will launch two entirely new networks — a karaoke offering and a channel about parenting — on video-on-demand this summer.

Air Karaoke and Oh! Baby will roll out on Time Warner Cable in June and Comcast Corp. later this year. Both VOD networks are expected to be in 10 million homes apiece by the end of the year.

“This is the best way for us to launch new brands,” Oxygen Media chairman and CEO Geraldine Laybourne said.

Both VOD networks, with their unique content, are aimed at different parts of Oxygen’s target audience of women aged 18 to 49.

“In that group, there are some very big differences,” Laybourne said.

“Some of them are seeking relationships and some of them are having babies. So let’s superserve them both.”

Air Karaoke will, in a sense, permit viewers to turn their TV sets into 24-hour karaoke jukeboxes. The VOD service will rotate music from a 15,000-song library, permitting viewers to pick a song from a group of 50 to 60 at a time.

Viewers will be able to sing along with rock, R&B, and classic-oldies tunes, whose lyrics will be highlighted by backgrounds with pulsating graphics.

“It really is interactive,” Laybourne said. “You get to choose what songs.”

Oh! Baby will provide parents with tips about raising kids, primarily from other parents. That service will debut with three shows.

Gone Parental will offer real-life parenting war stories from parents, packaged in themed vignettes such as “Potty Poopers,” for example. Oh! Baby You’re on TV will offer random, funny acts from kids, as caught on videotape.

MomsOnline will offer savvy tips from real mothers who’ve written to Oxygen.

Laybourne pointed out that Oxygen started out as an online business, and that one of its most successful franchises was Moms Online, where mothers offered other parents child-rearing tips.

“New moms love that kind of advice,” she said.

To help promote Oh! Baby, the linear network Oxygen will nest a program block that contains some of the VOD service’s content starting in June, according to network officials.

Oxygen has hired Beth Harrison as its director of cable tech initiatives to manage its on-demand offerings. In addition to the VOD standalones Air Karaoke and Oh! Baby, Oxygen already provides programming from its linear network, shows like Girls Behaving Badly, for VOD offerings for operators such as Comcast and Time Warner.

A MYSTRO VET

Harrison joins Oxygen from Time Warner’s Interactive Video Group, where she assisted in the development of Mystro TV, the planned networked digital video-recording platform. She reports to Geoffrey Darby, Oxygen’s president of production.

The idea to create Air Karaoke, which will also air videos solicited from viewers, and Oh! Baby came out of a special task force that Laybourne said she formed about a year ago to explore how Oxygen — which just about then hit cash-positive — should expand.

She wanted ideas that would draw advertiser interest, superserve Oxygen’s audience and could be connected back to the linear network.

Air Karaoke and Oh! Baby both fit those criteria and constitute programming that’s particularly suited to VOD, rather than a linear format, Laybourne said.

Oxygen has been talking to MSOs beyond Comcast and Time Warner about Air Karaoke and Oh! Baby, and Laybourne claims they’ve been enthusiastic.

“We have more of an incentive to do VOD than others [programmers], because we’re still growing,” she said. “And bending over backwards to try to figure out how to have an original, exclusive, compelling proposition for cable operators — in areas where they may not be superserving their audience right now — that helps us on the distribution side.”

VOD FOR WOMEN

Oxygen is now in 54.3 million homes, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Because of their female-skewing content, the new Oxygen VOD offerings should help drive VOD usage among women for cable operators, according to Laybourne.

She added that women are “kind of last to the party in VOD. If you go into a focus group with them, they’ll tell you they’re afraid if they push a button it will cost extra or ruin their whole setup.”

Laybourne is also bullish about getting advertiser support for Air Karaoke and Oh! Baby.

“We have been talking to ad agencies about their interest in VOD and they’ve been very positive,” she said.

Laybourne said the new Oxygen VOD networks will have some traditional ads, as well as some “deeper” relationships with sponsors. For example, in addition to containing Oxygen-produced programming, she expects Oh! Baby to eventually serve as a clearinghouse for informational content from advertisers.

For example, companies that have products related to babies often produce TV programming related to kids’ topics. So a parent looking to toilet train a toddler could turn to Oh! Baby’s library of information-based programming, some of it from advertisers, to learn more on that topic, Laybourne said.

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