Lifetime breathes a sigh of relief

Network expects Oxygen to be more frugal

Oxygen is getting its hands on a wealth of fresh resources thanks to its soon-to-be new parent NBC Universal, so execs at rival femme net Lifetime should be twitching with worry, right?


Lifetime is actually relieved Oxygen will no longer be able to tap into what seemed like a bottomless pit of money provided by multibillionaire Paul Allen.

Exhibit A for Lifetime is a pitch by the producers of a proposed reality series called “Breaking Up With Shannen Doherty,” in which the former “Beverly Hills, 90210” star would give advice to people locked into dysfunctional relationships.

Lifetime made what it thought was a generous offer, which would have included new-media rights like streaming video on Lifetime.com and an on-demand window. But Lifetime was in for a shock when it learned Oxygen nailed the series not only by ponying up more license-fee dollars, but by waiving most of the new-media demands.

For whatever reason, the series didn’t find a big enough audience, and Oxygen canceled it late last year after only one season of 13 half-hour episodes.

Oxygen also left Lifetime in the dust back in December 2004 when it shelled out even bigger bucks — a humongous $65 million — to scarf up some cable TV rights to 21 theatrical movies from Warner Bros., including “Million Dollar Baby,” “Oceans Twelve” and “Miss Congeniality 2.”

Lifetime is convinced that, under the notorious frugality of General Electric, which owns NBC U, Oxygen will stop its extravagant spending.

That shift, Lifetime execs hope, will pull the marketplace back into some semblance of real-world sanity.