TBS gives Women’s Network heave-ho

Channel cut 2 months after unveiling

NEW YORK — Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System has pulled the plug on the Women’s Network, a cable channel under development with Advance Publications, the privately held owner of Conde Nast, publisher of House and Garden and Vanity Fair magazines.

“I can’t say I’m surprised because Turner never really gave us a serious pitch” for the Women’s Network, Jerry McKenna, head of programming and marketing for Cable One, the 11th-largest MSO (multisystem cable operator) in the U.S., said Friday.

Another MSO executive, who requested anonymity, said Turner would’ve had to pay cable operators hundreds of millions of dollars in launch fees just to get the network cleared on basic cable. It would take Turner five or more years to get that money back from cable operators in monthly license fees, depending on the deals Turner was able to strike with the operators.

Many cable operators also questioned the need for another network geared to women in light of the continued success of Lifetime and, to a lesser extent, its sister channel LMN (Lifetime Movie Network), jointly owned by the Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Broadcasting.

Oxygen supply

Another women’s channel, Oxygen, is scheduled to be launched in February by Oxygen Media, a privately held venture formed by the former head of Nickelodeon and ABC Cable Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Entertainment, Carsey-Werner Media, Paul Allen’s Vulcan Ventures, ABC and America Online.

“TBS has decided that it is not in the company’s best interest or in the best interest of our affiliates to actively pursue the creation of the Women’s Network at this time,” a TBS spokesman said.

“We are putting the development of the network on hold. For the time being we feel it best to concentrate on the development of the other two networks we are preparing for launch, Turner South and Boomerang, while also furthering the distribution of our younger networks, Turner Classic Movies, CNN/Sports Illustrated and CNNfn.”

A source with knowledge of the situation told Reuters the project was unlikely to ever be revived and was aborted because of the high cost of original programming the Women’s Network was planning to shoulder.

News of the venture’s demise comes just two months after it was unveiled. In June, Time Warner and magazine giant Conde Nast said they would join forces to create a cable television network and Web site for women in a “cross-business media strategy.”

The move would have brought together Time Warner’s vast TV, online and magazine holdings with Conde Nast’s publishing muscle. Time Warner and Advance are already co-owners of cable television systems.

Turner’s TV programming includes CNN, TBS and TNT. Time Inc. publishes magazines such as Time, People and Parenting.

Competitors to the Women’s Network in the online universe include women’s special-interest sites such as iVillage Inc.’s ivillage.com. The initial public offering of a similar company, Women.com Networks, was postponed last week due to market conditions.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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