Ain’t WE Got Fun?

May 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Name a women’s network whose new leadership is embracing younger-skewing reality programming, dropping its stodgy, female-focused tag line and investing in public service campaigns.

Lifetime? Yep.

But it’s not the only one.

WE: Women’s Entertainment Executive VP and General Manager Kim Martin is making similar moves-and getting similar ratings-boosting results.

Just as Lifetime recently dropped its longtime tag line “Television for Women,” WE is about to change its name from “WE: Women’s Entertainment” to “WE TV.” WE is also set to announce a new tag line: “WE Have More Fun.”

“It really brings to life the personality of the brand,” Ms. Martin said. “When you’re coming to this network, you’re going to have a good time.”

The network also is ordering several new reality series and specials, including a docu-soap about cheerleaders.

Ms. Martin said the network is not trying to emulate Lifetime (which also recently unveiled a cheerleading docu-soap), but also isn’t backing away from good ideas just because another network announced them first.

“If you have a good idea, there’s room for more than one,” she said.

Since joining the network in late 2004, Ms. Martin has invested in women’s social issue campaigns and gained strong ratings growth after investing in original series. Though directly competing against top 10-ranked Lifetime is not going to happen overnight, recent ratings gains have put WE close to overtaking perennial second-place women’s network Oxygen for the first time in three years among total viewers.

In the first quarter, Oxygen was the 46th-ranked basic cable network for total viewers in prime time, up 1 percent versus the same quarter last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. But WE was ranked 47th-and up 37 percent. Among 18 to 49, Oxygen still leads, ranking 41st to WE’s 45th. But Oxygen gained only 6 percent, while WE shot up 54 percent.

The WE-versus-Oxygen contest is crucial for the network, sources said, because the two channels tend to compete for the same ad dollars.

The gain impressed Lifetime Executive VP of Research Tim Brooks.

“WE has improved-they’ve launched at least six new reality series in four months, and one of them [“John Edward: Cross Country”] has done well for them,” said Mr. Brooks. “They’re breathing down Oxygen’s neck this year.”

A Cheerful Slate

Ms. Martin is banking on a few new lighthearted reality efforts to help push WE’s ratings and back up the “WE Have More Fun” tag line.

The first is “Cheerleader U.,” a half-hour series chronicling a season of the University of Kentucky Wildcat cheerleaders, who have an eight-year cheerleading National Championships winning streak to protect. The six-episode series will debut in January.

Another is “Doggie Daycare,” eight half-hour episodes about a high-end daycare for pampered pups. The series is produced by a company called Screaming Flea, and set to premiere next March.

“A lot of women who are not married tend to treat their dogs like their children,” Ms. Martin said. “This [series] shows the ultimate day of pampering for dogs.”

Another show is a backdoor pilot, “Ghost Moms,” that will premiere next summer as a one-hour special. The series follows homemakers who, according to its producers AuthenticTV, “chase their children by day, and the paranormal by night.”

Ms. Martin sees the show as a potential companion for John Edward’s spirit-channeling series “Cross Country,” whose March premiere was the highest-rated debut in the network’s history.