Ever since its launch, NBCUniversal’s Oxygen has struggled with identity as just another female-focused cable network among a slew of others, including Lifetime, Bravo, E! and WEtv. It finally might have found its identity in crime programming, which has done surprisingly well.
Oxygen’s Crime Time primetime block, recently expanded from three to four nights a week, boosted the network’s total-day ratings on those days by 44% in 4Q vs. the same period last year. The NBCU cable leadership has taken notice and is starting to explore an overall crime-theme rebranding of the network. Talks are underway with prolific crime drama producer Dick Wolf, who is in the NBCU family with a rich deal, as well as other producers, about being part of the new Oxygen. I hear conversations are in preliminary stages and there are different scenarios being considered, including one in which Wolf would be the sole partner with equity in a setup similar to OWN, a joint venture between Discovery and Oprah Winfrey — who, coincidentally, was an original investor in Oxygen before the struggling independent network was sold to NBCU.
Wolf, whose company produces both scripted and unscripted crime reality series, including NBC’s ever-growing Chicago franchise, already is developing programming for Crime Time. There also are other possibilities for Oxygen as a crime brand working with multiple producers.
Oxygen’s Crime Time features such real-crime series as Snapped, Killer Couples and It Takes a Killer. A possible crime makeover, first reported by Variety, would not change Oxygen’s female focus. In the past couple of months, Oxygen has launched or picked up a slew of such series catering to its target audience of “millennial women”, including Strut, Unprotected, Bad Girls Club, The Battle of the Ex-Bestie and Last Squad Standing.
NBCU in 2013 rebranded another of its lower-profile female cable networks, Style, as the male-centered Esquire.