Tuesday, April 28, 2015

CORE RESPONSE 5: Tracking Oxygen Media's Progress in Converging with the Internet

In her article “Flexible Microcasting: Gender, Generation, and Television-Internet Convergence,” Lisa Parks discusses Oxygen Media, the first “on air and online network for women, by women” at length (142). Parks says, “Oxygen’s plight to ‘superserve the needs and interests of women’ is certainly worth tracking in the years to come,” and I agree (148). Since I am not an avid Oxygen watcher, I had to research the company’s evolution since the early 2000s and found that in 2014, Oxygen Media promised a new interactive, cross-platform that would allow viewers to weigh in on the show while it’s airing live called “Play Live.” However, if you try to find it today, oxygen.com/playlive brings up a 404 error. The bright new future of female-centric media convergence seems to have not quite worked out as hoped. 

After the network was rebranded in 2014, none of its programs deal with making technology accessible to women, most likely because women’s ability to navigate the internet is now assumed. We now longer need Oprah to show us how to use technology.

It’s interesting that Parks considers women passive when “Oxygen is the No. 4 most social primetime cable reality network in 2014. And of the top 10 most social cable reality networks, Oxygen viewers have the largest number of followers.”

Despite its social media prowess, I would say that Netflix, not Oxygen, is the true convergence of TV and the internet and the very embodiment of “self programming.” Oxygen has been left behind, as it does not offer the viewer programming on demand with recommendations based on your carefully recorded viewing habits like Netflix does. In fact, you still need a cable TV provider to watch Oxygen shows on demand on their website. Oxygen engages with its audience through social media very successfully, but that’s where the convergence seems to end.

Now, Oxygen’s programming is mostly reality TV, but it has not lost its focus on women’s empowerment with new entrepreneur-themed shows announced in March of this year, such as “Time to Quit Your Day Job,” which will give new business women the chance to pitch themselves and their ideas to a panel of female investors. Another show, “The Hustle,” follows the daily struggles of young female assistants working for successful entrepreneurs.

In this way, I hope Oxygen Media continues to push for programming for women and continues to find success, even if it’s not exactly on the forefront of the convergence of internet and TV.

I agree with Parks that we “can’t afford to kill our televisions” (152) and “talk more about what we want to see” (153). What I want to see is more programming for women, by women. We also need to “care enough about television to fight over it, to realize that our creative potential might lay in it” (153). Oxygen Media seems to agree, and I wish them continued success as they push toward a convergent future. 

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