The cable upfront kicks off earlier than we can ever remember, with Oxygen holding its 1st ever upfront presentation on Jan 23 at NY’s Cipriani. Part of the reason behind the early start is that the selling season has changed, said Oxygen pres/COO Lisa Gersh. "We’re open for business 52 weeks a year. Why not talk to our advertisers when they have time to hear us," she said, noting how last year’s cable upfront stretched from May until Sept as opposed to being jammed into just a few weeks. But is it too early? "They’re making a statement to the community that they are the 1st to do it. There is some creative licensing that they can do with that so that they get a little more buzz about it," said Harry Keeshan, evp, national broadcast for media buyer PHD. "I don’t know at the end of the day that it will impact their intake of ad dollars. There are a lot of cable nets to get through." So, does Oxygen run the risk of being forgotten about in May or June when the broadcast upfront breaks? Probably not, because as Keeshan notes, pretty much every net will have experienced sales people coming back a number of times to call on buyers. Larry Novenstern, evp, dir of NewCast at Optimedia, said timing can always be a factor. "They’re going to have less to tell you as far as programming. They’re going to be further away from the action, but their voice will be heard by the people who will attend," he said. Gersh doesn’t seem worried about the timing, pointing to the number of launches the net has on tap for Jan (returning series "Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency," new series "Tease," and an original movie) and the desire to keep the presentation close to its Dec milestone of reaching 70mln subs. "We wanted to have a big party and celebration. We think size matters, and we’re the first women’s net to admit it," she quipped. Plus, there’s the scatter market. "One of the reasons we’ve seen such tremendous growth in our upfront CPMs (+10% last year, she said) is because we have such incredible growth in the scatter marketplace," said Gersh. Oxygen’s keeping its plans for its inaugural upfront under wraps, but expectations are high (tongues are still wagging over Fabio riding in on a white horse during the net’s annual women’s lunch at the Cable Show 2 years ago). "We have lots of special things planned," Gersh promised.

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