NEW YORK - Oxygen Media CEO Geraldine Laybourne and Markle
Foundation president Zoe Baird last week announced that the two organizations will fund an
ongoing research initiative which will not only track "women's opinions, attitudes,
needs and values" but also help shape Oxygen's programming content.
Regarding the latter, Baird said during a conference call
that the research will be "letting the audience in the tent" to influence
Twisting the famous line from the film Field of Dreams,
"If we build it, they will come," Laybourne said she preferred the rationale,
"If they build it with us, they'll stay."
In response to a Multichannel News query during the
question-and-answer segment of the conference call, Laybourne said MediaOne Group Inc. and
Charter Communications have recently committed to "fully distributing" the
network over their cable systems, although rollouts will depend on channel availability.
MediaOne has already committed systems which reach 1.3
million subscribers when Oxygen launches on Feb. 2, 2000, Laybourne added.
Laybourne said the research aspect - to be called Oxygen/
Markle Pulse - is "a very important, core piece of Oxygen," which will have both
a cable and an Internet presence.
Oxygen will contribute $5.3 million to the research
initiative; Markle will add $4.5 million over three years, including up to $3.5 million
for Pulse and up to $1 million for an "experimental fund for converging media."
The latter fund will enable Oxygen to create "new programming, tools and technologies
that might not otherwise be developed on a strictly commercial basis," Markle said in
The Pulse surveys will begin this summer with a benchmark
study of 3,000 respondents, conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based opinion research firm
Penn-Schoen & Berland.
Initial results will be available this fall on the
Oxygen.com Web site, but once the cable network launches, there will be "virtually
daily and weekly" surveys that will be incorporated into its various programs and
specials on key issues, Laybourne said. Oxygen's primetime block will probably feature
survey results on a daily basis, she added.
To develop this "definitive source of publicly
available information about - and for - women," Laybourne said an advisory board will
be formed, drawn from journalism, academia, research and elsewhere.
Baird indicated some of the areas that may be explored in
the Pulse surveys could be education, health care, human rights and the role of media in a
democracy. It will be particularly important that "women get heard" on the major
Election 2000 issues, Laybourne said.
The companies also want to reach the women who don't yet
have access to cable or the Web. "The 'digital divide' is a concern we take very
seriously," said Laybourne, who added that Oprah Winfrey, an Oxygen investor, is
producing Oprah Goes Online as a 12-part television series that'll also have an Internet
Penn-Schoen & Berland also conducted a Discovery Health
Pulse survey whose results were featured last week on the Discovery Health Media Web site
and in a Newsweek feature, "Report Card on America's Health." MCN