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Cosmo: Not Too Hot for Cable

Apr 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Hearst Corp. has put on the fast track development of plans to bring its Cosmopolitan Television channel-based on the company’s popular young women’s magazine-to the United States.
Clearly the niche Hearst sees is a channel targeted somewhat younger than its popular Lifetime Television. The average viewer of Lifetime, which is aimed at women, is 44 years old, according to Mediamark Research Inc. The median age of Cosmo’s print women readership in the United States is 32, according to MRI.
“I think it would be a real winner,” said a multiple cable system operator executive, who was approached on the QT about the idea. “Right now the channel is only Spanish-language,” said the MSO executive. “Can you imagine how popular it would be if they did it both in English and Spanish here?”
Cosmopolitan Television is the top-rated women’s network in Spain, where it was launched three years ago. Last July it premiered in Latin America as well.
The channel’s programming includes reruns of the HBO hit Sex and the City and the Fox series Melrose Place, as well as shows that reflect the zeitgeist of Cosmo: fashion, sex, beauty, sex, celebrities and, of course, sex.
One Hearst executive, who called bringing Cosmo TV to the United States “the mother lode,” said the company would likely decide by October whether it will launch the channel in some form here next year. “Cosmopolitan, as a magazine, is too important to this corporation for us to do anything to jeopardize it. The really good news is that Cosmo magazine sales in Spain have gone up since the TV channel launched there.”
One major hurdle could be The Walt Disney Co., a 50 percent co-owner, with Hearst, of Lifetime, which is in 86 million homes. Besides its flagship channel, there is also Lifetime Real Women, a channel focusing on nonfiction stories. How would Disney feel about Hearst starting another ad-supported channel targeted so directly to women?
“Hearst hasn’t asked Disney yet, is my understanding,” said one executive familiar with Hearst’s Cosmo TV game plan. “But since Disney owns a chunk of E! and its Style channel, which is targeted to young women as well, Hearst feels that Disney is not in a position to block Cosmo here.”
The start-up of Cosmo TV in the U.S. market would be more competition for Oxygen Media, which has already positioned itself with some success as younger in viewership than Lifetime. It is fairly consistently among the 10 top-ranked cable networks in the ratings. The median age of the Oxygen viewer is three years younger than Lifetime’s, checking in at 41 years old, according to MRI. Oxygen, in 47 million homes, expects to turn a profit for the first time by this November.
Can the marketplace support three channels targeted to women but with slightly different demos? “Well, on the news side we have Fox, CNN and MSNBC, and, generally, we use them all,” said one media agency buyer. “In fact, if you have three women’s networks that can really differentiate themselves in terms of target audience and convince advertisers it’s working, yes, I think there would likely be enough products to advertise to support all of them.”