Klarman, a longtime colleague of Bravo/Oxygen president Lauren Zalaznick, will be responsible for the women’s network’s day-to-day operations and will oversee its marketing, digital, communications and sales strategy. He will continue to report to Zalaznick.
Klarman and Zalaznick have worked together since his days leading branding at pop-culture network Trio, now a Web venture folded into Bravo. Klarman was Trio’s senior VP of marketing starting in May 2001 and joined Zalaznick at Bravo in May of that year, after NBC acquired Vivendi Universal Entertainment and she became head of both networks. Before Trio, he was director of media relations at CNBC and then VP of marketing for Fox News Channel.
He takes the reins to reshape the female-focused network two months after NBCU acquired it for some $875 million and two days after rival media conglomerate Discovery Communications said it will start a cable channel with Oprah Winfrey in 2009.
But while that network and others, like top-ranked women’s network Lifetime Television, are obvious competitors, Oxygen will relaunch with the financial backing and cross-promotional and marketing power of NBCU behind it.
Klarman, obviously not a woman, said in an interview that his experience helping to shape female-skewing Trio and Bravo qualified him for the job. While the network will fill its vacant programming-chief position, Klarman said he will look to maximize its brand potential across platforms.
“At the end of the day, Lauren didn’t hire a man, she hired Jason Klarman,” he said. “And we have had several years together, and I think that what I really bring to the table is a focus on branding and strategy and building the cable business of the future, the television business of the future. I think I have the experience in marketing and building businesses that attract women, and I’m going to bring that same discipline and that same view of building the business to Oxygen.”
His first order of business at Oxygen, he added, will be meeting with current staffers and trying to “figure out why the network is as successful as it is.”
“Oxygen is doing incredibly well with young women and has a very interesting group of shows that have all broken out in a cable landscape where it’s tough to have shows break out,” he said. “What do these shows have in common? I’m going to spend some time thinking about that and seeing how that informs the brand and overlaying the opportunity in the sales marketplace to build the strategic view for Oxygen.”
Most recently executive VP of marketing and digital at Bravo Media, Klarman’s responsibilities have grown from marketing to include digital, consumer products and sales marketing. Key Bravo projects he’s credited with overseeing include its 2005 rebrand, which brought its “Watch What Happens” tag line and talk-bubble insignia; its Web-site expansion to include broadband mini-sites, such as OutZoneTV.com and BrilliantButCancelled.com; its March 2007 acquisition of TV-review Web site TelevisionWithoutPity.com; and its June 2007 name change to Bravo Media to reflect its recent efforts to branch into talent management and consumer products, like cookbooks and knives tied to reality cooking show Top Chef.
“At Bravo Media and before that at Trio, Jason has brought innovation and growth to every part of the business he’s touched,” Zalaznick said in a statement. “He thinks big, he thinks strategically and he is extremely effective at taking an existing brand and bringing it to a whole new level. Oxygen is an exciting new asset for NBC Universal and presents a tremendous growth opportunity. I think he’ll do great things for the network.”
Regarding the forthcoming Oprah network, Klarman said he welcomed a competitive marketplace and while he did not yet know specifics on Oxygen’s future content for the linear cable channel and online, the network would “focus like a laser-beam on superserving a young, female audience.”
Klarman becomes the second senior executive appointed to the network since it was acquired by NBCU for $875 million in net assets in November 2007. Last week, the company named NBCU Local Media Division executive Cynthia Chu as VP and chief financial officer.