Upfront Season Starts with Oxygen

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New York -- Oxygen Media tipped off the advertising-upfront-presentation season here Tuesday morning, with executives detailing the expansion of two specials into series, highlighting entries from a reality development slate and unveiling a pair of online initiatives.

Plus-sized beauty competition Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance and Fight Girls will jump from two-hour specials to series.

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.

Fight Girls, the women’s-targeted network’s first reality movie, will become its initial sports-competition series as Muay Thai kickboxing students will train with guru Master Toddy in Las Vegas. The winner will travel to Thailand to compete with the top fighters in the world. Oxygen plans to air eight episodes.

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

The network -- which currently counts some 71 million subscribers, expected to grow to 80 million by year’s end -- 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; Adfight, in which teams of professionals, students and amateurs compete for the opportunity to develop a campaign for a Fortune 500 company; and Prankstar, in which fledgling comics will be put to the test in terms of creating faux movie trailers and music parody videos and pulling celebrity pranks.

The network also has a trio of scripted series in the development 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 TV flanked by various Web sites back in 2000, Oxygen announced two digital initiatives at its upfront presentation at Cipriani’s here: Oomph.Net, a destination for women to connect via an array of networking platforms; and SheDidWhat.tv, the company’s first broadband channel, which will host ad-supported content, Web exclusives and original series Our Bodies, Myself. The latter is a comedy series about womanhood in this nation, hosted by comedienne Lauren Weidman.

During the upfront, various executives talked about the network’s significant improvements in total viewership and, in particular, with women 18-34, which has served to reduce its median-age watcher.

President and chief operating officer Lisa Gersh said Oxygen surpassed the $100 million advertising-sales plateau in 2006, and it was expecting a bigger Madison Avenue hand in 2007, as she invoked a black-jack analogy of sorts to the assembled media buyers and planners: “We want you to double your client base with us. Get ready to double down -- we want to deal you in.”

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