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Oxygen gets boost

Struggling cabler pacts with online giant

Struggling to find an audience for its shows on the air, cabler Oxygen has pacted with America Online in a multimillion dollar distribution deal to make the channel a bigger hit on the Web.

The multiyear tenancy and promotional pact with the world’s largest Internet service provider will position Oxygen-produced programming across the America Online service, AOL.com, Netscape, CompuServe and ICQ brands.

Oxygen will also be an anchor tenant on five AOL Channels, including Women’s, Families, Teens, Health and Entertainment sites. It will also create a co-branded site for women. AOL has more than 21 million members.

Deal should help boost the visibility of the struggling upstart, which creates and distribs 55 hours of original women-focused programming for cable auds and an online network of sites that includes oprah.com. Oprah Winfrey is one of the founders of Oxygen.

“Through our expanded alliance with AOL, Oxygen now will reach the largest audience of women online,” said Geraldine Laybourne, Oxygen’s chairman and CEO. “These women are looking for information, advice, community and commerce opportunities and we are going to deliver for them.”

Oxygen launched its cable network, which is integrated with its online sites, on Feb. 2. Oxygen.com’s sites include info on everything from raising a family, job hunting, getting healthy, building a financial portfolio to even making dinner, Oxygen boasts.

“As women’s everyday lives get increasingly busy, their ability to find convenient, easy-to-use sources for information, advice, camaraderie and community becomes increasingly important,” said Bob Pittman, prexy and chief operating officer for America Online.

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