Oxygen Sports reduces team

20 staff members laid off, programming cut

Except for figure skating and world-class gymnastics, women’s sports usually end up at the bottom of the Nielsen rating charts.

This cold hard fact slammed into Oxygen Media’s sports department last week, causing the women’s network run by Geraldine Laybourne to lay off 20 staff members of Oxygen Sports and cut back on its programming commitment from 31 events a year to about 12.

A spokesman for Oxygen Media confirmed that the network will now focus on one high-profile event per month. These will include some Women’s Tennis Assn. matches, one or two events of the Ladies’ Professional Golf Assn. and pre-season basketball games from the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

Oxygen originally bought lots of women’s sports to make the network stand out against its main cable-network competitors, Lifetime and WE: Women’s Entertainment.

Lifetime made its own foray into sports a couple of years ago, highlighted by games of the Women’s National Basketball Assn. However, when the events failed to lure subscribers, Lifetime bowed out of the sports biz to focus on the stuff that gets ratings, like movies, original and rerun series and reality programming.

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