Oxygen Sets High Ad Goals

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New York— Oxygen Media has high advertising expectations for 2007.

President and chief operating officer Lisa Gersh tipped off the upfront season with the female-oriented network’s first-ever sales presentation to advertisers here on Jan. 23. In it, she challenged the assembled media buyers to “double down” in 2007, as Oxygen aims to double its existing base of 225 advertisers this year.

After growing ad revenue about 30% last year to past the $100 million mark, Gersh acknowledged in an interview that the vastly expanded client goal was an “ambitious” but attainable benchmark, given the network’s increased distribution.

“A lot of advertisers wouldn’t consider us at 56 million, but now with 71 million homes, it gives us more traction, and we’ll gain even more as we move toward 80 million by year-end,” she said. Gersh noted that Oxygen’s enhanced ability to reach audiences in primetime (up 15% to 252,000 total viewers in 2006), and women 18 to 34 (ahead 29% to 44,000) are other pluses on Madison Avenue.

Oxygen also pointed toward the buying power and purchasing decisions made by women across a variety of categories.

“Beer? Video games? Underpants? The occasional car? Hello, my son’s 32 and that’s what he buys,” said Oxygen Media chairman and CEO Gerry Laybourne during the presentation at Cipriani. “Our audience are big, fat buyers.”

To that end, Gersh told Multichannel News that “we don’t get our fair share” of advertising in the auto, technology and financial services categories. “We have a lot of room for growth there.”

As for programming, the network, in addition to emphasizing returning series Campus Ladies, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency and The Bad Girls Club, noted that a pair of specials, Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance and Fight Girls, will transition to series form this summer.

Mo’Nique will take her 10 aspiring beauty-contestant hopefuls to Paris, where they will vie for the title of “Miss F.A.T.” and $50,000 across seven one-hour installments.

Meanwhile, Fight Girls, the network’s first reality movie, will morph into its initial sports-competition series as Muay Thai kickboxing students train with guru Master Toddy in Las Vegas, with the winner heading to Thailand to compete with the top global fighters. Oxygen plans to air eight episodes, beginning in June.

Oxygen this summer will also showcase countdown special 50 Funniest Women Alive, hosted by Kelly Ripa.

On the development side, the network has nine reality pilots in the works. President of programming and marketing Debby Beece talked up Rodeo Girls, a look at the personal and professional lives of women on that circuit; and Adfight, in which teams of professionals, students and amateurs compete for the opportunity to develop a campaign for a Fortune 500 company.

The network also has a trio of scripted series in the pipeline: Graphic City Limits, about a woman who unknowingly leads parallel lives; Angry Little Girls, an animated series about disenchanted, gloomy, fresh and funny kids, based on the book of the same name; and Identical, which follows the lives of two very different twin sisters.

Returning to the roots that saw it launch as a TV network flanked by various Web sites back in 2000, Oxygen also unveiled two digital initiatives: Oomph.net, a destination for women to connect via an array of social-networking platforms; and SheDidWhat.tv, the company’s first broadband channel, hosting ad-supported content and exclusives, including original comedy series Our Bodies, Myself.

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