Networks Seek Women Online

WE, Oxygen, Lifetime bring their battle to the digital arena
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Cablevision’s women’s network WE began offering its content last week on Amp’d Mobile—a startup wireless phone service targeting young consumers—with 10 hours of original shows, including Bridezillas, Daddy’s Spoiled Little Girl and Full Frontal Fashion.

WE is the latest of the women’s cable networks to launch a digital product intended to expand their audience in a multiplatform world. While conventional wisdom might hold that young guys are the most loyal and aggressive consumers of online video and games, research indicates that digital applications are just as popular—more so with certain uses—with women.

Seventy percent of sales of downloadable games—which brought in $241 million in sales last year and is expected to grow to $1.7 billion by 2009—were generated by women, according to Lifetime, largely because the preponderance of downloadable games are classified as “casual games.” They include free or cheap-to-download word, puzzle and card games, such as Hearts. Lifetime says women use these games as de-stressors during breaks in the day.

It’s more of a calming agent,” says Lisa Black, VP of business and marketing development, Lifetime Online

Lifetime says its Games section is the most trafficked section on its Website, accounting for more than half a million of Lifetime.com’s 2 million unique visitors each month.

Women’s networks face more competition than ever in the digital space. Women’s portal iVillage is rolling out new services after NBC bought the company for $600 million in March. NBC has already announced tie-ins between the network and the site, such as “Makeover Central,” in which the Today show will offer once-monthly makeovers to iVillage users.

Women consume about half of all video viewed online, according to comScore Video Metrix. They also consume 80 minutes of online video per month, compared with men’s nearly two hours, the company says.

WE’s clips will run as part of a $10 content package on Amp’d, whose investors include MTV Networks, Universal Music Group and Intel. Clips will also be available for individual download. The company provides cellphone service and content—both its own and others’—to young consumers.

WE Mobile will run on all Amp’d phones, including the Angel, a sleek white Kyocera that tested well with women.

“For us, Amp’d is a great strategy because it targets women with this new, cute small white phone,” says WE Executive VP/General Manager Kim Martin, “and that’s what women are looking for.”

Lifetime, which offers both free and pay-to-download games for $9.99-$15.99, is expanding the gaming area of its Website in fourth quarter with more-robust pay-to-download versions of popular games like RSVP, in which users aim to please “party guests,” faces on colored playing cards, by correctly arranging them around digital “tables.”

Lifetime is also planning to debut 40 five- to seven-minute Webisodes for this summer’s original Lifetime Movie Network flick, Inspector Mom.

All three big women’s cable networks—WE, Oxygen and Lifetime—have talked with Apple about downloads on iTunes, but only Oxygen offered free excerpts and full episodes of the show via the site.

By July, Oxygen plans to launch an ad-supported broadband video player and is also in talks to include more user-submitted content, says President of Interactive Geoffrey Darby.

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