Open Season -- The Upfront Season -- On TV Networks Calling Each Other Out
They're hurting, they're wounded, and they're on the run. Who's "they"? Networks catering to older women.
At least that's what NBC Universal's Oxygen wants us to believe.
Just in time for the upfront season, Oxygen is doing its best to hammer home messages about Disney-ABC Television's Lifetime, with an omnipresent business marketing campaign directed at potential TV advertisers.
The campaign points to a host of ways that "Generation O" is better for TV advertisers than "Lifetimer"s. Yeah, we get it.
Median age of a Lifetimer, 46; that of a Generation O member, 39 (somewhat significant). Oxygen says its viewers make slightly more money -- $48,000 versus $43,000 (not that much different). The network also claims its audience is growing while Lifetime's is declining (not exactly).
Copy reads, "In advertising all women are not created equal." A big picture of colorful -- and seemingly hip -- woman is contrasted with a small photo of a drab older woman in print and Internet ads.
But this isn't the whole picture. Media analysts guess this is an effort to get out in front of other competition coming Oxygen's way, like the Oprah Winfrey Network: OWN. The joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey seems to be directly targeting both Oxygen and Lifetime viewers.
To make matter more complicated, Oxygen has other competition for the young women 18-34 demographic -- that young-skewing women's broadcast network, The CW, which garners significant advertising sales results with shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries."
No doubt MTV might also like to lay claim to a piece of this demo, especially in recent years with shows like "The Hills" (which won't return for another season).
Back to Lifetime: While its ratings have indeed been falling over many periods, it has had a reprieve in just the last three months -- perhaps thanks to "Project Runaway"'s viewership finally kicking in.
In first quarter 2010, Lifetime in prime time improved 14% in the 18-34 demo, to 253,000; with Oxygen up 11% to 146,000. True, Oxygen's overall audience is growing, up 18% to 523,000. But Lifetime is more than twice its size -- 1.2 million, down 6% from a year ago.
And NBC Universal is probably still pissed that "Runway" got away from its Bravo network, which also gets plenty of younger women viewers but less than Lifetime. In first quarter 2010, Bravo, in prime time, averaged 221,000 18-34 viewers, down 13% from the first quarter of a year ago.
Numbers, numbers. There are a lot of numbers.
And with the upfront season now here, there's more data than ever making us gasp for air as we run for cover -- and understanding. Give us oxygen.