Knowing Where to Go for Shows

Feb 17, 2008  •  Post A Comment

For female TV viewers, there has never been a better time to find a channel with just the right blend of information and entertainment. As women click from channel to channel searching for shows they like, there are three main cable outlets that offer essentially female fare: Lifetime, Oxygen and WE TV.
“Women watch TV for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes they watch it to escape. You know, they put the kids to bed and sit down at night. They watch Lifetime as a reward. It’s ‘me’ time,” said Michael Greco, executive vice president of research for Lifetime Networks.
Lifetime is the highest-rated women’s network on basic cable, averaging 1.5 million viewers in prime time and reaching 96 million television households. The Lifetime audience is 75% women.
“We do really well on the weekends with movies, when women sit down and indulge themselves. In some ways, it’s a chance to recharge,” Mr. Greco said. “We just finished up a morning study. We found that viewing Lifetime in the morning was about reducing boredom and keeping them company. A large portion of women are really, really busy, and watching Lifetime in some ways reduces the daily grind.”
At WE TV viewership is nearly 80% female, depending on the program. “Our target is to bring in women 18-49 and 25-54; that’s really our sweet spot,” said Steven Cheskin, senior vice president of programming for WE. “We have a couple of off-network series and we run one or two movie nights a week, but the rest of it is original programming. We’ve really grown our commitment to original programming. It’s a way to differentiate ourselves, and we’ve had record-breaking ratings. Advertisers love the original programming.”
WE TV concentrates its efforts on creating original programming and is committed to increasing exclusive content in the future. “It’s the programming itself that really makes us different. That’s why we want the original programming,” said Mr. Cheskin.
WE has thrived in the wedding genre. “Our commitment to wedding programming works,” he said. “Our most popular show is ‘Bridezillas,’ and that’s coming back again this year; we’re doing 22 new episodes. It’s been an incredible success story.
“‘Platinum Weddings’ is our other really successful wedding show. People really like watching those big, over-the-top, very expensive weddings where they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for catering. Based on ‘Bridezillas’ we knew that women were clearly interested in the subject, and going back to ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ we know that people love that kind of programming.”
Targeting Trend-Setters
Oxygen, which became wholly owned by NBC Universal in November, focuses on a particular kind of woman. Jason Klarman, general manager of Oxygen, said, “Our audience is a trendsetter audience, an influential audience. They have a good amount of disposable income. They’re looking for more resonance and more impact than just a spot campaign. They’re looking for word of mouth.”
Talk shows and comedies dot the network’s lineup, but its standout successes have been in reality. Mr. Klarman said, “‘The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency’ just had its highest-rated episode, its most-watched episode ever, on the heels of ‘The Bad Girls Club’ just having its most-watched episode ever. Janice broke her own record for the three seasons she’s been on. ‘Bad Girls’ was the most watched TV show on Oxygen ever.
“Oxygen is a very forward-leaning brand, and we’re embracing new media in all different ways,” he added. “During the Super Bowl we promoted a new series coming in April called ‘Deion and Pilar,’ starring football legend Deion Sanders. We gave a sneak peek of that show at halftime on Oxygen, and it streamed at Oxygen.com. We’re expanding our Web presence and creating more of a wireless presence for Oxygen, and building out a lot of new-media capabilities as well.
“We think we have the most valuable female audience of the competitive set for the reasons I mentioned, and we’re the youngest audience that is the most coveted by advertisers,” said Mr. Klarman. “We were one of the fastest-growing networks last year in the women 18-49 demographic.”
The top programs on Lifetime are, not surprisingly, its original films. The network is renowned for its TV movies. The films have been so successful that Lifetime Networks spun off the Lifetime Movie Channel.
“It’s doing amazingly well. It’s the best-kept secret on cable. It out-rates Bravo even though they have some of the bigger, buzzier shows,” Mr. Greco said. “They get a lot of press, but Lifetime out-rates Bravo and it buries Oxygen and WE. It’s not a fair comparison.
“Lifetime Movie Network taps into the passion that women have for our movies. It’s the perfect companion because if you’re in the mood to watch a Lifetime movie and Lifetime is doing something else, because we’re a little broader than just movies, you have an option,” he added.
“Women love Lifetime original movies,” said Susanne Daniels, president of entertainment for Lifetime Networks. “We hear over and over again how the weekend is often ‘me’ time and they like to find time to curl up on the couch and watch a Lifetime movie. We’re a place where they get more original movies geared toward women than any other channel.”
On its spring schedule Lifetime has a big movie premiering created with its female demographic in mind. “‘The Memory-Keeper’s Daughter’ is both star-driven and content-driven,” Ms. Daniels said. “The book has been on the best-seller list for between 40 and 50 weeks, I believe. We have a phenomenal cast for this movie—Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol and Emily Watson. That’s going to be in April.”
In 2007, Lifetime debuted “Army Wives,” an original series that truly engaged female viewers. It was “the No. 1 original cable drama last summer,” said Ms. Daniels. “That show was a huge breakout hit—the highest-rated series in the history of Lifetime.”
Lifetime also is planning original sitcoms. “We’re really excited that we’re shooting a bunch of comedy pilots; we’ve greenlit three family-oriented comedy pilots,” said Ms. Daniels. “Until now all of our comedies have been second-run, which is typical of cable channels. To have an original comedy series exclusive to Lifetime that we can grow and ultimately strip on our own channels is a great opportunity.”
WE Goes to ‘High School’
WE expects women will be drawn to its reality series “High School Confidential.” “It’s a remarkable series. A woman in Kansas documented the four years of high school of a dozen girls. It’s unbelievable. Each episode focuses on one or two of these girls and you see their progression. There’s very little of anything like this that has been on TV before,” said Mr. Cheskin.
“When we look at 2008 and the shows coming back, like ‘Bridezillas,’ ‘Platinum Weddings,’ ‘Secret Life of Women’—and we’re working in new shows that we think will be really appealing, like ‘High School Confidential’ and ‘Women Behind Bars’—we have a great mix of programming to build on our foundation and to appeal to women of all ages,” he said.


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