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Nickelodeon Whiz to Buy AOL Sites for New Firm

September 16, 1998|SALLIE HOFMEISTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Geraldine Laybourne, who turned children's programming into a gold mine by building Nickelodeon into the top kids network for Viacom Inc., has agreed to buy three America Online Inc. sites for women for her new company.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the acquisitions represent the first investments by Laybourne in building the new-media company, Oxygen Media, which will focus on women and children. Laybourne resigned last spring from Walt Disney Co., where she was president of cable operations.

Disney invested an undisclosed amount in Oxygen. As part of the transaction announced Tuesday, AOL will also become an investor.

The three services bought by Oxygen give the company the largest female audience on the Internet, according to Laybourne. The sites are Electra, an online women's network; Moms Online, a parenting site; and Thrive, a health site.

Under a long-term agreement, Oxygen will be an anchor tenant on AOL's new women's channel, as well as its health, family and lifestyle channels.

AOL believes the three services will be more valuable as part of Oxygen than they would under its own management, and it hopes to capitalize on Laybourne's success as a programmer and marketer.

Laybourne initially hopes to do for women what she did for kids at Nickelodeon--namely, make them into a more valuable audience for advertisers while serving up more "respectful" programming than is available today.

"Eighty-five percent of all purchases in the country are made by women, and 65% of all automotive purchases," Laybourne said. "There's a disconnect between the control they have and how advertisers are reaching them."

Laybourne said the three acquisitions are just the start of a company that will eventually branch into television and publishing.

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