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Oxygen Goes All Out With Glee

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Cranking the volume up to 11, Oxygen on Monday presented media buyers with the most literal-minded interpretation of its “Live Out Loud” tagline, blaring through a choreographed upfront pitch that sent younger agency reps into a Twitter frenzy.   

Bathing New York’s Gotham Hall in a raspberry Jell-O light, the NBC Universal network cast the entire presentation as if it were an episode of its upcoming competition series, The Glee Project. Before each new project was introduced, a team of hoofers pranced across the stage, performing numbers cribbed from the Glee songbook.

While The Glee Project won’t bow until June 12, the show is clearly seen as the biggest star in the Oxygen firmament. Part of a package deal that saw Oxygen snap up the off-net rights to Fox’ musical dramedy, the 10-episode companion series is produced by Glee creator Ryan Murphy.

Oxygen won’t begin airing repeats of Glee until the third quarter of 2013, but per terms of its deal with 20th Century Fox TV, the cable net was granted a preview window. In February, Oxygen stripped out six episodes of Glee, reaching a total audience of 10.6 million viewers over the course of 12 hours.

Murphy will take an active role within the competition series and will serve as the final arbiter when it comes time to crown the eventual winner. The grand prize is a walk-on role in season three of Glee, which regularly finishes among the top five rated broadcast TV series.

Fox will not promote the spin-off series. All told, Oxygen’s investment in the Glee package has been eyeballed between $500,000 and $600,000 per episode.

Through the end of this year, Oxygen will up its investment in original programming by 26 percent. Most of the new series had been announced prior to Monday’s event, and one newcomer is a spin-off of the network’s Tori & Dean flagship.

Although no longer the tabloid fixture she was during the heyday of The Simple Life on Fox, Oxygen is prepping Paris Hilton’s third stand-alone reality series, The World According to Paris. Pitched as an insider’s look at the real Paris Hilton (whatever that may be), the docu-series bows June 1.

Also in the works for this summer are season two of Hair Battle Spectacular and a second round of Love Games, a sequel to Oxygen’s most-watched series, Bad Girls Club. Bowing Aug. 10, 2010, to 866,000 viewers, Hair Battle may not have been the most obvious choice for a renewal. That said, the show demonstrated strong and steady growth in its eight-week run, closing shop up 29 percent (1.12 million viewers).

As much as Bad Girls Club often feels like a drunken gate-crasher when compared to some of Oxygen’s more buttoned-up offerings—for those who haven’t watched, the show essentially functions as an arena in which a bunch of poorly socialized young woman commit assault and troll for bed partners—the series is too much of a ratings draw to tone down. When time-shifted viewing is factored in, BGC regularly tops the 2 million mark. Ergo the competition spin-off, which resurfaces April 18.

Oxygen saw its prime time ratings rise 12 percent in 2010, as the network posted an average prime time delivery of 476,000 total viewers. Per Nielsen, Oxygen grew its share of women 18-49 by 8 percent versus the year-ago period, averaging 182,000 members of the demo. Women 25-54 were up 5 percent to 160,000, while women 18-34 increased 14 percent to just shy of 100,000.

While the full-year numbers were encouraging, Oxygen has endured some backsliding of late, falling 11 percent in prime in Q1 2011 with an average draw of 469,000 viewers. More significantly, deliveries of the target demo fell 18 percent, as Oxygen averaged 165,000 women 18-49, down from 200,000 in Q1 2010.

The network saw ad sales rise 12 percent over the course of the calendar year, said Susan Malfa, svp, ad sales for Bravo, Oxygen and Women at NBCU. Based on industry estimates of the network’s year-ago net ad take, Malfa and her staff last year booked in excess of $150 million in sponsor commitments.