Lauren Zalaznick to head Oxygen

NBC promotes exec to run cable network

NBC Universal has tapped Bravo topper Lauren Zalaznick to run its just-acquired cabler Oxygen.

The Peacock announced Zalaznick’s added responsibilities on Tuesday, along with the news that it has formally completed its $875 million acquisition of the femme-focused net. Oxygen will be housed under the NBC U Cable group, run by Universal TV Group prexy-chief operating officer Jeff Gaspin.

Zalaznick will continue in her current role as prexy of Bravo Media, reporting to Gaspin.

Gaspin said Zalaznick’s track record building and branding smaller networks — including Bravo, VH1 and Trio — made her the logical choice for the Oxygen gig.

“The types of networks she’s run in the past are similar to what Oxygen needs,” he said.

Zalaznick and her team “need to do with Oxygen what they did with Bravo, which is to make the network matter to a larger degree.”

Bravo has been transformed into a basic-cable dynamo under Zalaznick’s watch thanks to a blend of upscale reality skeins such as “Project Runway” and “Top Chef.” Exec has also emphasized the growth of Bravo’s digital properties, engineering the purchase of Television Without Pity.

Zalaznick said it’s too soon to say what changes may be made at Oxygen.

“The first step is for me to know where they’ve been and where they’re going,” she explained, saying she’ll take several months to dive into the details of the net’s programming and exec structure.

NBC U inherits in Oxygen a network with a couple of buzz-generating skeins, including “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency” and a Tori Spelling reality show.

From a ratings standpoint, however, Oxygen isn’t in the same ballpark as femme rival Lifetime. Latter cabler averages four times the household audience as Oxygen.

That said, Gaspin said he’s pretty sure NBC U’s new baby will remain focused on women 18-34. Expect the NBC U cross-promotional machine to gear up in an immediate effort to pump up the numbers for Oxygen.

Lisa Gersh, an Oxygen co-founder who has served as the net’s prexy-chief operating officer, will continue in that role for a three-month transitional period. She’ll then take a new position within NBC U.

“Lisa is one of the main reasons Oxygen has become such a valuable brand within the cable marketplace,” said NBC U supremo Jeff Zucker.

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