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One of the most powerful women in television, executive Geraldine Laybourne founded the women's programming network Oxygen Media.
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Born in Martinsville, New Jersey, Geraldine Laybourne later studied art history at Vassar College and elementary education at the University of Pennsylvania. She met her husband Kit Laybourne when he was a senior at Wesleyan College, but it wasn't until five years later that they ran into each other again. Six months later, they married.
In 1980, future America Online (AOL) president Bob Pittman, then head of MTV, hired Geraldine Laybourne and over the next 16 years, she masterminded unconventional children's programs, including Rugrats, The Secret World of Alex Mac, and Pepper Ann. Her innovative programming approach, which made a point of talking to children as equals, built the tiny cable network, which had only five employees in 1980, into an $8 billion business. Oprah Winfrey and Carsey-Werner Productions (producers of hits including The Cosby Show and Roseanne). She also purchased three women-oriented online services from her former MTV boss Pittman.
On February 2, 2000 (a date which plays off the chemical compound of oxygen -- O2/O2), the Oxygen Network premiered to 10 million subscribers. Currently, the cable channel boasts 55 hours of original programming a week, which includes its flagship show Pure Oxygen (an assortment of news, entertainment, and lifestyle segments) and Exhale (a nightly talk show hosted by Candice Bergen).
Laybourne envisions a future world of media consumption where lines between television and the Internet blur thanks to digital cameras, cable modems, streaming video, and other technologies. Her unusual choice to launch both Internet programming and cable programming simultaneously -- rather than tacking on Web sites to established programs -- challenged both purely Internet companies like iVillage, which also targeted women online, and established cable networks like Lifetime.
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