Oxygen Programming Chief Runs Out of Air

Introcaso-Davis departs struggling NBCU network

Nearly three-and-a-half years after being tapped to oversee programming at NBC Universal’s Oxygen Media, Amy Introcaso-Davis is stepping down from her post.

While Introcaso-Davis played an integral role in raising the network’s profile, Oxygen’s ratings spike has petered out. In the second quarter of 2011, the network averaged 387,000 viewers in prime time, down 11 percent from the year-ago period and flat versus Q2 2008, Introcaso-Davis’ first in charge of original programming and development.

The target demos have suffered a similar downturn. Women 18-49 fell 11 percent in the second quarter, as Oxygen averaged 147,000 in prime time. In the same period, Oxygen’s deliveries of women 25-54 plummeted 21 percent to 125,000.

Oxygen on Friday said Introcaso-Davis voluntarily resigned her position, adding that she’ll stay aboard until a replacement has been identified.

Introcaso-Davis leaves in the wake of a disappointing season, one that saw a number of new and returning series fail to connect with viewers. The World According to Paris, a reality series starring a past-her-cultural-expiration-date Paris Hilton, was dead on arrival, while the much-hyped competition series The Glee Project hasn’t been the mega-hit Oxygen had anticipated.

Hilton’s show premiered to just 409,000 viewers on June 1, upon which the celebutante complained that Oxygen had muffed the series’ starting time. (The charge was unfounded.) The July 20 finale drew a mere 274,000 die-hards.

Since premiering to 455,000 viewers on June 12, The Glee Project has improved measurably, although it still hasn’t proved itself to be a breakout hit. The July 24 installment of the competition series delivered 741,000 viewers, a 63 percent improvement from the opening night draw.

The Glee Project was handed to Oxygen as part of NBCU’s acquisition of the off-net rights to Twentieth Century Fox Television’s scripted series Glee and Modern Family. NBCU in June 2010 invested between $500,000 and $600,000 per episode for Glee and approximately $1.4 million a pop for the rights to ABC’s breakout hit, Modern Family.

NBCU outbid Lifetime and Turner Broadcasting’s TBS for the package; at the time, sources at both networks said they were not interested in committing to a series order for The Glee Project.

Ultimately, Oxygen has failed to establish a brand identity. While the network’s sales team has made a coherent pitch for the “Generation O” audience, a cohort of well-compensated and socially aflutter young women, the Oxygen prime-time schedule is often incoherent. For example, the ugly stepsister of The Glee Project is Oxygen’s top-rated series, The Bad Girls Club.

A showcase for women with advanced psychological problems, the pugnacious BGC was the first Oxygen program to top the 1 million viewer mark. Since 2009, the show has served up more than 2 million viewers on at least a dozen separate occasions.

Other projects ushered in by Introcaso-Davis include the blink-and-you-missed-it docuseries All About Aubrey, the true-crime franchise Snapped, and a revolving series of shows focused on actress Tori Spelling and her young family. Competition strips include Hair Battle Spectacular and Dance Your Ass Off.

Despite its ratings challenges, Oxygen has yet to suffer a corresponding bite in its pocketbook. According to Kagan estimates, the network last year took in $146.3 million in net ad revenue, a gain of 9 percent from 2009. With an average sub fee of 10 cents a head per month, the channel brings in approximately $91.2 million in affiliate revenue.

Before joining Oxygen in March 2008, Introcaso-Davis worked for sibling network Bravo, where she developed and executive produced the Emmy-winning series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. She also brought forth the lucrative Real Housewives franchise, which has expanded to seven stand-alone series since the introduction of the Orange County cast in March 2006.