Oxygen Breathes Some Into Upfront, Sets Early Pace, Unveils Reality Shows

Kicking off the upfront season earlier than ever before, Oxygen has at least one show that may be particularly seductive to Madison Avenue: A reality series in which potential creatives and designers battle for the chance to produce an actual campaign.

Tabbed "Adfight," 10 teams comprised of pros who work in agencies, industry students and headstrong amateurs will research "what women want" while competing for the chance to create a campaign for an unnamed big-time marketer.

Hot production shop Reveille--which offers programming friendly to brand integration, such as NBC's "the Biggest Loser"--is developing the show.

"Adfight" is one of a run of female-targeted reality series the 71-million-home network is developing.

The network has seen its median age go down, and viewership rise this season, although it remains small. Prime-time median age since September is 42.5--down from 44.1 at this point a year ago. Average viewers in the female 18-to-34 demo are up 29%, but to only 53,000; in the female 18-to-49 demo, the average is up 25% to 104,000. Since January 2006, distribution has risen 27% to 71 million homes, which may account for some of the ratings increases.

Others in the pipeline include "Rodeo Girls," focusing on the lives and loves of young female bull riders. Oxygen describes it as "Laguna Beach at the rodeo," partly because it comes from the same production company as the one-time eponymous MTV phenomenon.

The network also is making a pitch for the growing Hispanic audience with "Viva Hollywood," which follows accomplished Latino actors trying to succeed in "mainstream" Hollywood, where they are unknown. (Oxygen also has a comedic film in development about a Latina businesswoman challenged with finding a husband in 24 hours.)

Also in the reality genre: a series following women in the New York fire department, and a show chronicling the life of the wife of ex-NFL star Deion Sanders.

This summer, Oxygen said it will reformat a pair of two-hour specials into series: "Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance" and "Fight Girls." Also on deck is a special ranking the funniest women, to be hosted by Kelly Ripa.

Like just about every cable outlet, Oxygen is making a MySpace-inspired push into the online social-networking space with Oomph.net. In what has become standard operating procedure, the net is unveiling a broadband channel--SheDidWhat.tv--this month.

Oxygen says the online offensives are a return to its founding mission to be a multi-platform destination for women. But following the network's struggles and the failure of the "broadband/social-networking" revolution to materialize, it retrenched to focus on building the linear channel.

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