Oxygen Adds Five Series Ahead of Rebrand, Including Kardashian Minister Docuseries (Exclusive)

Frances Berwick Rod Aissa - H 2014
Cindy Ord/NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment

Frances Berwick Rod Aissa - H 2014

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Ahead of its Oct. 7 rebranding, Oxygen is moving forward with five new series.

In a bid to cater to women 18-34, the NBCUniversal-owned cable network has picked up The Wilkersons, centered on the man who officiated Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's wedding, as well as The Prancing Elite Project, The Investment Club, Finding My Father and a Preachers of L.A. spinoff set in Detroit, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Additionally, Rod Aissa has been promoted to exec vp original programming and development two years after being tapped to oversee the department.

The pickups come as Oxygen — with its new "Very Real" tagline — is looking to build on the early success of The Sisterhood of Hip-Hop. Oxygen president Frances Berwick cited the summer docuseries as an example of what she hopes the rebranding will accomplish as the cabler looks to differentiate itself from its NBCUniversal siblings.

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"The common thread is [the new shows] appeal to things that are important in the lives of young, millennial women," Berwick tells THR. "Prancing Elite is male dancers in their element, and it's a funny story about trying to break through against prejudice. They're the underdogs; it's a story about ambition, making yourself better and having a good time doing it.

"The thing that came across loudest when we did research on what viewers want to watch is a focus on authenticity. … [Our audience] really values authenticity and [is] over anything that smacks of manufactured drama," Berwick says, noting that Sisterhood and the five new shows represent a fly-on-the-wall type of storytelling that proves more relatable. "The idea of 'Very Real' is: This is real life; it's not people who look like models living in mansions. It's people who are in similar life stages to [our audience] and are more reflective of who they are."

The quintet of new series represents Oxygen's big push to focus on broader subjects, including spirituality, business and family, with what Berwick said is a greater emphasis on production quality.

"As a network you have to constantly evolve and listen to your audience and where the overall marketplace is," she said of the increasingly common network rebrands across cable. "For us, it was finding the right space and area that wasn't catered to and serving it. We didn't find anyone else in this young female space. You do have to move with the times and be sensitive to what's right."

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The news comes after Oxygen, the youngest-skewing of the women's networks by eight years, abandoned its "Live Out Loud" tagline in April and a year after Berwick, who also oversees Bravo, added Oxygen to her roster.

For its part, Oxygen in April posted year-over-year growth among all key demographics, including women 18-34 (up 7 percent) and women 18-49 (up 5 percent). The network is a top 25 ad-supported network among both demos.

Here's a closer look at the five new series:

The Wilkersons (working title)

Produced by Magical Elves; EPs Jane Lipsitz, Dan Cutforth, Giuliana Rancic, Jason Kennedy and Rich Wilkerson.

Pastor Rich Wilkerson made international headlines when he married friends Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in a glamorous wedding in Florence, Italy. But even though he preaches to the A-list, his true passion is sharing his faith with the world and being part of a movement of young believers. A more entertaining way of spreading the gospel, this series not only walks with people through the struggles of their lives, but also sheds light on how Rich Wilkerson and his wife DawnChere’ are committed to making church and faith fun as well as unexpected. With the entire family involved in the church, they are ready to share their innovative and thought-provoking ministering with both the believers and nonbelievers.

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Preachers of Detroit

Produced by L. Plummer Media in association with Relevé Entertainment; EPs Chris Costine, Lemuel Plummer and Holly Carter.

Oxygen is expanding the network’s popular franchise and heading to Motown for Preachers of Detroit, set to premiere winter 2015. The series will also focus on powerful themes of faith, family and friendship as these seven men and women of the cloth share their lives, transformations and triumphs in and out of the pulpit in Detroit, Michigan. The prominent pastors include Bishop Charles Ellis, Pastor David Bullock, Evangelist Dorinda Clark-Cole, Pastor Don Shelby,Bishop Corletta Vaughn, Bishop-Elect Clarence Langston and Pastor Tim Alden.

The Investment Club (working title)

Produced by Fremantle Media; EP Thom Beers.

The outlook for young business owners hoping to turn their ideas into billions has never looked better. This risk-taking new series brings together passionate millennial hopefuls attempting to make their mark in entrepreneurial history with young, self-made business moguls who have already paved the way. These aspiring professionals will pitch their innovative new products to the “Investment Club” where they are given the opportunity to raise funds for the burgeoning businesses. Cameras will also follow these successful CEOs outside the boardroom as they personally invest in each business they want to help evolve.

The Prancing Elite Project (working title)

Produced by Crazy Legs Productions; EPs Alana Goldstein and Tom Cappello

Set in the high-stakes world of Southern dance teams, this show chronicles the story of the Prancing Elites — an all-male competitive dance team in Mobile, Ala., who are looking to go from a one-click-wonder to a national sensation. With big personalities and even more heart, these five best friends will navigate the pitfalls of stardom and interpersonal drama all while attempting to break down the stereotypes and barriers put in their path toward success.

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Finding My Father (working title)

Produced by Asylum Entertainment; EPs Steve Michaels, Jonathan Koch and Stephanie Lydecker

These men and women who grew up without their fathers are now on a mission to find them and try to fill the void they’ve felt their whole lives. Each episode will follow two people as they search for the truth about their past with the help of a private investigator. As these people are at a crossroads in their life, they must decide if they want closure or to start the relationship they’ve always longed for.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit