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Cable Network For Women Planned

Three of the most successful women in television are banding together to form Oxygen, a cable network aimed at women.

Former Nickelodeon President Geraldine Laybourne's company, Oxygen Media, announced Tuesday it will team with Oprah Winfrey and producer Marcy Carsey to create the new channel, which will provide entertainment, news, and sports programming.

Oxygen would compete with Lifetime, the only established cable channel that caters directly to women. Lifetime, which is already seen in 72 million homes, has consisted mainly of movies and reruns but recently added women's basketball and original programs to broaden its appeal.

Oxygen is expected to make its debut Jan. 1, 2000. The new channel has already signed a deal with cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. to deliver Oxygen to 7 million homes.

Laybourne helped build the Nickelodeon children's network into one of the most successful channels on cable and later served as president of Walt Disney Co.'s cable channels. She left Disney in May to form Oxygen Media, a cable TV and online company geared toward women and children.

Under the deal announced Tuesday, Winfrey's production company Harpo Entertainment Group and Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Co. will take stakes in Oxygen Media, joining its other big-name investors, America Online Inc. and Disney's ABC network.

Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the production company behind such hits as Third Rock From the Sun and The Cosby Show, would be the chief programmer for Oxygen. Winfrey, whose talk show has dominated daytime programming, will contribute programming through Harpo.

"Oxygen will provide entertainment that speaks to today's multifaceted woman whose tastes are wide and diverse," Laybourne said.

According to The New York Times, a morning block called The Hive would be talk oriented; the midday block, called Working Lunch, would deal with issues facing working women, and the afternoon block would focus on teenage girls.

There would be a comedy block at night, possibly using some shows produced by Carsey-Werner-Mandabach such as Roseanne, Cybill, or Grace Under Fire, the Times said.

The partnership also calls for Winfrey's Internet sites to be included in Oxygen's lineup of Web sites, including Moms Online.

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