Oxygen talks up ratings at upfront

Network spotlights unscripted series at presentation

Having announced the lion's share of its 2010-11 development slate during the Television Critics Assn. press tour, Oxygen Media had few significant surprises in store for its upfront presentation Tuesday. But if the sales pitch was short on intrigue, network brass kept things lively with moxie and research.

On the heels of Oxygen's most successful quarter since it launched a decade ago, GM Jason Klarman talked up the recent ratings gains and advertising-sales momentum. Speaking before an audience that included NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker, Klarman said the network closed first-quarter 2010 at No. 18 in primetime among women 18-34, averaging 115,000 members of the demographic. Before NBC Uni acquired the network, a much older-skewing Oxygen averaged about 53,000 women 18-34, according to Nielsen ratings data.

Hard data aside, the network's lineup of brassy unscripted series received top billing Tuesday. Amy Introcaso-Davis, senior vp original programming and development, introduced former Spice Girl Mel B as the new host of Oxygen's competition series "Dance Your Ass Off," which returns June 7 for a second season.

The June 29 premiere of "Dance" averaged 1.27 million total viewers, making it the most-watched series opener in Oxygen history; with a weekly delivery that regularly tops 2 million viewers, the network's biggest performer is "Bad Girls Club."

Introcaso-Davis said the 2010-11 lineup "speaks directly to Generation O," the network's target audience of young, acquisitive women.

"It's relatable, aspirational, original and most importantly, fun," she said before going on to screen new projects including "Jersey Couture" (premieres June 1), "Hair Battle Spectacular," "House of Glam" and "The Russell Simmons Project." All four were announced in January as part of Oxygen's development slate.

Not getting picked up was the previously announced "When Charlie Met Sarah," which promised an inside look at the romantic travails of former "The Bachelor" contestant Charlie O'Connell and on-again, off-again girlfriend Sarah Brice.

In addition to upcoming series, Oxygen has given the green light to a pair of pilots: "Tori and Dean Weddings" and "Who Wears It Best." The former is an extension of Oxygen's existing development deal with World of Wonder and stars Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, and "Best" is being positioned as a "fashion game show" hosted by MTV personality La La Vazquez.

Two new titles on the development slate are "Bachelorette Party" and "Make Me Under."

One area Klarman didn't touch on was Oxygen's rapidly declining median age. During the network's 2007 upfront pitch, the last before NBC Uni brought it into the fold, Oxygen boasted a median age of 42.5 years. In first-quarter 2010, that number dropped to 38; moreover, primetime originals now attract a median age of 24.
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