Announces new ad-bundled initiative at NBCU

Lauren Zalaznick is moving up the food chain at NBC Universal with something new added to her plate.

Currently the topper of the conglom’s Bravo and Oxygen cable networks, as well as its green initiative, Zalaznick was named president of all women and lifestyle entertainment nets Wednesday, adding oversight of the iVillage Internet sites to her portfolio.

Jeff Gaspin, president and chief operating officer of the Universal Television Group, made the announcement.

Zalaznick’s promotion was not unexpected. Gaspin had taken interim control of iVillage from Beth Comstock, who left NBC U in March to become chief marketing officer for parent company General Electric, and Zalaznick was picked at that time to take over Comstock’s iVillage duties (Daily Variety, March 4).

Deborah Fine, president of iVillage properties, will report to Zalaznick.

“Lauren brings a rare combination of creative energy and rigorous discipline in everything she does,” said Gaspin. In tandem with Zalaznick’s promotion, Peacock announced the formation of Women@NBCU, a combination of media assets that will reach out to the female demo across NBC Universal’s multiple platforms. Initiative will attempt to connect advertisers to women who are already watching Peacock skeins, including the femme-skewing “Today,” “The Biggest Loser” and “Lipstick Jungle,” as well as programming on Bravo and Oxygen and online at iVillage.

“My goal is to present additional value for the client, consumer, advertiser and brand owner,” Zalaznick told Daily Variety. “I think of it as a mall analogy, having three anchor stores — iVillage, Bravo and Oxygen — and those stores get galvanized by the boutique brands of NBC U. That’s an important concept. You can have mass at the network level but you need a targeted reach elsewhere.”

Sales efforts for Women@NBCU will be handled by senior VP Susan Malfa, who is currently responsible for ad sales at Bravo and Oxygen.

“This strategy is right in line with our entire enterprise sales approach, which focuses on creating customized marketing solutions targeted to a very specific demographic,” said Mike Pilot, prexy of NBC U ad sales and marketing. Zalaznick has been the topper at Bravo since 2004; she added Oxygen to her resume in November when NBC U acquired the network. Bravo took a big hit recently when it lost top-rated show “Project Runway” to Lifetime. The show does have one more season on Bravo that begins in July. NBC U has filed a lawsuit challenging the show’s move.

Overall numbers for Bravo are strong, with Nielsen ratings up every three months for the last 10 quarters.

“I see Bravo as a bigger business brand,” Zalaznick said. “We’re about 60-40 female right now, which is perfect. What I want is to deliver the most affluent, educated, engaged and influential consumer of Bravo content. We want to be nimble and ready to get them.”

Oxygen is also on the upswing, with more viewers watching in the first quarter of 2008 than ever before in the history of the network.

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