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Three Ways Oxygen Found Breathing Room

Glee Is Giving Oxygen a new reason to sing. The network that targets 18-34-yearold women aggressively pursued the successful Fox series, which is the No. 1 show on television with, yes, 18-34- year-old women. In 2013, it will have exclusive basic cable rights to the show’s entire run. But Oxygen, which operates on a do-it-now ethos to satisfy its wantit- now viewers, will get access to the first season of Glee beginning in January. And more important, it will get the opportunity to produce original Glee content, including multiple specials and a reality show spin-off set to bow next June.

Oxygen executives are already developing ways to exploit the Glee franchise for its multi-tasking, multimedia-obsessed viewers. But the Glee coup also underscores the successful rebranding of the previously moribund network since it was acquired by NBC Universal in 2007. And it comes as Lifetime is in the throes of a critical but tricky re-invention, with the long-awaited launch of OWN slated for Jan. 1.

With Glee, Oxygen cements its status as the anti-Oprah network. The Glee cast may have sat on Winfrey’s couch, but you can bet that’s the only time Glee fans watched Oprah. Oxygen may not be as big as Lifetime, and no one is underestimating Winfrey’s Midas touch, but Oxygen’s recipe for success offers lessons for its competitors:

FIND YOUR NICHE. “Trying to please everyone, you wind up pleasing no one,” says Jason Klarman, president of Oxygen Media. He’s fond of pointing out that women are not a niche, as so much of television is aimed at and watched by women. “We recognized that young women were attractive to advertisers, and we recognized that nobody else was really going after them,” he says. “It’s really not rocket science. You have to open your eyes and see where the opportunities are. It’s about understanding the audience. In true econ-speak, what’s your value proposition? What’s your competitive advantage?”

E. Research shows that younger viewers multitask while they watch television. So, the network launched an online destination designed to keep Oxygen viewers multitasking on Oxygen Live lets them chat, post comments, tweet, and interact with each other and series stars during the network’s programming. “We knew that she wasn’t watching in some kind of isolation booth, but that she was connected somehow,” Klarman says. “Now, we have closed the loop. So now, they’re talking about us and they’re watching us. They’ve wired themselves into a social network. We’re merely accessing that network in a way that is organic to them. We start the conversation, but they continue it. And that conversation is what drives so much awareness and tune-in.”

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT. Oxygen executives are already brainstorming ways to exploit Glee on TV and online. And whether the serialized show repeats well or not is almost beside the point. Fans of Glee, self-descried “Gleeks,” have bought into the 360 experience, as the show’s iTunes downloads attest. As Klarman puts it: “That’s a level of passion that translates into success on cable.”

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