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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



Oxygen Seeking New Investor

August 28, 2007 10:46 AM

Oxygen Media confirmed today that it is looking for private equity to replace funding from Clarity Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity investment firm. A source from Clarity said the firm decided to pull the five- year trigger on its “substantial” investment in Oxygen because Clarity doesn’t want to invest in a stand-alone cable network.

Earlier this month, published reports said NBC Universal was interested in buying Oxygen; an Oxygen spokeswoman would not comment on those stories. She did say Oxygen had secured debt financing, but given the conditions in the credit market, Oxygen was considering its options, including seeking a new infusion from a private equity partner.

Oxygen’s other investors are Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures, Carsey-Werner, Oprah Winfrey and Time Warner/AOL.


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Comments (9)

Kathy:

You can pose the question, should they leave their stand-alone position or look for another investor, but of those two options, either solution involves the same process. Assuming they can't get their current investors to come up with some more money, they will need to meet with either potential investors/strategic partners and/or potential buyers and see who offers the best deal. Nevertheless, at some point, maybe not this go-around, I'm betting they will get purchased.


Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Kathy,
Amazing how the mortgage defaults in the sub prime credit zone spilled into so many sectors. Hard to say what's gonna happen with Oxygen. Gerry Laybourne fiercely loves her independence, but she has a problem. I tend to agree with you, the company's metrics are on the uptick but that only gets you so far. What does this say about the current business climate? Weigh in, please, I certainly don't know as much as you all do.

Marianne

Joe:

It would seem to me that if their business plan was viable they would not be seeking investors to infuse funds into their network just to keep operations going. Lack luster advertising sales, substandered programming and possibly faulty management appear to be Oxygen's problem. Not a supposed "credit crunch". If financiers weren't afraid of the network shutting down and defaulting on their debts than this discussion would not be happening. Credit for a small, successful network to expand? Yes. Just enough money to help keep the doors open on a failing network? No, not a good investment.

Marianne Paskowski:

Joe,

Oxygen's ad sales are actually up. The programming is not memorable, agree with you there.

Thanks,
Marianne

Hi Marianne,

It's been a long time. Too long. I just discovered your blog, and was sad to read about Lucy. I remember our first lunch together when we talked about Zowie Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. Dogs are the best, aren't they?

I've been following Oxygen for quite some time and have my own theory about why it's up for sale:

Oprah Winfrey.

Like I said, this is only a theory, but for the life of me I can't understand why Oprah would want to continue her involvement with an enterprise that so blatantly demeans women. With such programs as Bad Girls Club, Girls Behaving Badly, Campus Ladies (which was marketed on toilet paper when it was launched), and Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, Oxygen offers little that inspires, uplifts, educates, or offers hope to women young or old. Instead, it's Beavis and Butthead for the Lifetime crowd.

The New York Times has been especially critical of Oxygen's programming. In her review of Oxygen's "Good Girls Don't," Times critic Alessandra Stanley wrote:

"It is hard to pinpoint exactly when it became safe to be a stupid slut on television...'Good Girls Don't,' a new sitcom on Oxygen sets a new low: a series entirely centered on the sordid, sad sex lives of two young girls from Minnesota who share an apartment in Los Angeles. The premiere episode is titled, 'My Roommate Is a Big, Fat Slut.'...Much of the show's banter is too explicit to quote in this newspaper, but the common theme is women's weaknesses: dependence on sex, men, marital aids and alcohol, and obsession with eating disorders and cosmetic surgery."

Oprah must be appalled. She has just opened a school for poor girls in South Africa, an extraordinarily selfless and heartfelt act of charity. When I watched the ABC special about it I cried.

Her Web site exhorts: "Live Your Best Life," but nothing in Oxygen's current programming slate suggests its aspiration is for women to live their best lives. To the contray.

With Oprah's name standing for all that is possible, hopeful, and good in the world, I can't imagine she wants her brand to be associated with the low-rated cable network of drunken, stupid sluts. That just makes no sense. When the time comes, how will she justify this disconnect to her girls in South Africa? How does she justify it to herself today?

I think Oprah's had enough and wants out.

What do you think?

Marianne Paskowski:

Cory,
Where are you? I still have some phone numbers for you in my rolodex, but they are old.

And unlike me, do you still name your dogs after vacuum cleaners, Kirby, for sure, Eureka, I think, etal. And thanks for remembering Lucy, who you never knew.

God I miss you and our times together, including post-aftermath earthquake shocks shared in a restaurant after the North Ridge episode for the now defunct Cable Ace Awards, where I freaked out.

I really like your point about Oprah. But she is not the one pulling out of the Oxygen venture, at least for now. Thanks for reminding us about how different her life is and the other major contributions she makes to help young women in Africa. When you spell it out, it is stark, compared to what she is presently doing with Oxygen.

Oxygen is trying to reach a younger, urban female demo with mixed success. Yep, the ratings and ad dollars are up, but from what base?

You better stay in touch, it's been way too long.

You've been on my mind, you must have ESP,
Marianne

Marianne,

We had a fun together, didn't we? I remember you introducing me to someone I had wanted to meet...the alter ego of Stanley Bing. Seems like everyone knows his real identity these days.

Oh yes, the dogs are still named after vacuum cleaner brands, although it didn't start out that way. Kirby, (and thank you for remembering) was named after the son of cable industry veterans Ted Livingston of Continental Cable and Karen Rogatz, who was my first boss in the biz when I interned for her, Jack Hayes, and Bill Roedy at HBO. It was Karen who ultimately recruited me to The Disney Channel when she left HBO for the Magic Kingdom.

So there's the cable connection.

Often when I introduced Kirby to friends I was asked, "Oh, like the vacuum cleaner?" It became easier just to say yes.

Four years later a scrawny little runt of a dog was tossed out of a moving car and left for dead in North Hollywood. One of my Disney colleagues took her in temporarily, another Disney colleague convinced me to adopt her, and a third Disney colleague suggested I stick with the vacuum theme. Hence Dirt Devil, or DD for short. She's about 13 now, and sitting here at my feet as I type.

A few years after that I had to put Kirby down (sadness all around). A week later the vet called. "Are you ready for another?"

"No," I answered. "Whatcha got?"

What he had was a customer who dropped off his three dogs for their annual shots, never returned, and sent word to the vet to "just put 'em down."

As if...

The last of the three to adopt out was a beautiful golden lab named Kelly. After I took DD in for an introduction I decided to adopt him. First order of business: a name change. I had "Hoover" for eight years; he died suddenly of a heart attack two years ago.

More sadness.

The earthquake. Ah yes, I do remember. How could I not? We were all freaked out; so you weren't alone in that regard. Here's a little piece of trivia: it struck at 4:32 in the morning, shattering glass throughout the house and losing all my electricity. Barefoot, blinded, and holding Kirby by the collar, I heard the phone ring, my first call, so at least I had service. It was your publisher, Joel Berger, barking into the receiver, "Are you OK?"

He had heard on the Today Show that we had an earthquake. What a guy he was. I can still hear him, can't you? He was sooo loud.

Leaving Disney turned out, in retrospect, to be very traumatic and I entered a real dark period. It was horrible, horrible, horrible. Then five years ago a Disney colleague offered me the chance to teach a class called "Entertainment Marketing" in the film school of Chapman University, a small, private liberal arts college in the heart of Old Orange County. (Yes, there is such a thing as old in Orange County.) It's a charming campus, and we're known locally as "The USC of Orange County."

I fell in love with teaching, and now do it full time, teaching classes in advertising, marketing, PR, and Internet Communications, and living in Newport Beach. Mostly, I LOVE the kids. Come visit us next time you're in SoCal, and share your observations with them on the distinctions between blogging and journalism.

Let's see. What else? Oh yeah. You haven't disspelled me of the theory that Oprah is disenchanted with, maybe even repulsed by, Oxygen's direction. Drunken, stupid sluts as role models? Please. If Oprah endorses what's going on over there then she is the biggest bamboozler of all time. But I do understand why you say Gerry Laybourne fiercely loves her independence. After working for Michael Eisner and Sumner Redstone, perhaps the two biggest cretins in corporate America, I'd be apprehensive about a new boss, too.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Cory,

It's so sad our dogs are with us for such a short time, but glad you got back on the saddle again on two fronts: canine and career.

Funny you should mention Joel. I was just telling friends about him yesterday and how he coined the nickname PAP for me. Not as in smear, but Polish American Princess. Like he wasn't the Jewish American Prince.

I left Reed and New York two years ago and am doing this and other stuff from East Orleans on Cape Cod. What a change of venue. If you're out this way, come for a visit.

Would love to address your class about the difference between journalism and blogs. Whoa, I've had some pretty poisoned minds respond to this thing, but you develop a thick hide.

Gave up naming our subsequent dogs after David Bowie characters. Somehow Rebel Rebel doesn't work for a lab.

Now back to Oxygen. Let's see if you can shed any light on the Clarity group that pulled out of the net. Hint: At least of them are two former cable guys, like you, presently living in California.

Marianne

LOL...that would be just like Joel to name you "PAP." Nothing subtle about him. Even today.

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