The Venue: Cipriani, New York
Key Execs: Oxygen Chairman-CEO Gerry Laybourne, President Lisa Gersh, Director-Ad Sales Mary Jeanne Cavanaugh, and Director-Programming and Marketing Debby Beece
The Food: A warming and hearty Italian breakfast -- salmon and goat cheese for bagels, two varieties of frittata, and some sausage and hash browns for less adventurous eaters
The Swag: iPod Shuffles were discreetly distributed in bright-pink goodie bags, an apparent attempt on Oxygen's part to show off its status as the only network launched in the past decade to reach 70 million homes.
The Celebs: A full helping of Oxygen's highest-rated talent, including Janice Dickinson, Mo'Nique, Sue Johanson and the cast of "Campus Ladies," along with show-closing surprise musical guest Jamie Foxx.
The Ratings Game: Still riding high on carriage gains from 2006, Oxygen has narrowed its gap with main competitor Lifetime from one-twelfth of its household audience to one-fourth. Last year it increased total-day viewing in households by 10% to 145,000 and jumped 15% in prime time to 203,000, with a strong showing among women 18 to 24. Ratings for its original programming continue to rise, with hairstyling competition "Tease" recently premiering to a .52 household rating and the second season of "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" opening with .50.
Forget waiting until the end of spring. Upfront season is right here, right now, and unofficially kicked off this morning with Oxygen's first upfront event in New York. The Oprah-approved Little Women's Network That Could reached 70 million households in 2006 (the first network launched since 1996 to do so), a feat commemorated with a showy, scripted event at Midtown Manhattan staple Cipriani.
After a cute intro from the perpetual fish out of water from "Campus Ladies" (who came to their first upfront in pastel-colored cat sweatshirts), Oxygen Chairman-CEO Gerry Laybourne told the packed crowd: "We want advertisers to know we're selling inventory 52 weeks a year." And with many of Oxygen's biggest series under way in their second and third seasons, January seemed as good a time as any to get the word out on the rest of the 2007 programming slate.
One upcoming reality series, Adfight, will pit agency creatives against ad students and amateurs to see who can come up with the best marketing to young women. Oxygen itself has faced that challenge with a bit of success. Last year the network increased total-day viewing in households by 10% to 145,000 and jumped 15% in prime time to 203,000. That makes Oxygen's audience just over one-fourth the size of Lifetime's, a sign of the network's steady climb over the past six years.
Other noteworthy launches
Other noteworthy program launches from Oxygen for the younger-female demo include "Prankstar," a "Girls Behaving Badly"-esque comedy competition, and "Dean and Tori: Inn Love," in which Tori Spelling opens up a California bed and breakfast with her new hubby.
While the very-pregnant Spelling was a no-show, many of her Oxygen peers showed up for the lavishly produced event. Janice Dickinson made a typically showy appearance by pretending to scan the audience for her next model, who conveniently happened to be a Grey sales exec with an easily removable shirt. Sexpert Sue Johanson, meanwhile, couldn't resist having some naughty fun with the word "upfront," patting her clothes and saying, "For you it's a normal word, but to me it's kind of dirty." Johanson's clothes remained on, however, unlike those of the beefcake from Grey.
The event came to a close with a surprise performance from Jamie Foxx, who summed up the network's appeal with an original song likely titled "Still Got It," which paid humorous homage to expectant mothers for their newly voluptuous figures and voracious appetites. Coming hours after his film "Dreamgirls" was snubbed for a best-picture Oscar nomination and weeks away from Valentine's Day, Foxx's performance was a well-timed close to the beginning of what will likely be the most eventful upfront season yet. Let the stunts begin.