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Style Net Gets Makeover

3/01/2009 9:28 AM Eastern

The Style network is undergoing a programming makeover.

The decade-old, Comcast-owned channel is officially strutting away from runway-based, high-fashion-oriented programming in favor of more inspirational content that focuses on the triumphs and trials of ordinary women, according to network president Salaam Coleman Smith.

As part of the network’s transformation, Style has introduced a new tagline, “Before Meets After.” The tagline better reflects content like Kimora: Life In The Fast Lane and Ruby, which Smith said place a greater emphasis on the life changes and issues of ordinary women, and have helped the network draw record numbers of viewers.

We had been primarily focused on high-end fashion — it was very much the runway network, very much the fashionista network,” said Smith, which was more reflected in the former tagline, “It’s So You.”

“We became much more character and story-driven, and by shifting to more character- and story-driven shows, we really also developed a connection to our audience that was far more enduring,” said Smith.

While the network has essentially shifted away from such typical fashion shows as Runway and Model since Smith took over at Style in 2006, its ratings fortunes really exploded with the 2007 launch of Kimora, which follows the exploits of the famed model, entrepreneur and mother; and last year’s debut of Ruby, which examines one charismatic woman’s weight-loss struggle.

The network set a viewing record in 2008, drawing 149,000 watchers in primetime, up 17% from the prior year. Style’s performance was paced by Ruby, which is averaging more than 400,000 viewers in its freshman run. A second season has already been commissioned.

Smith said Ruby is an example of the network’s shift toward more transformational and inspiring shows for its target viewers, 25-to-49-year-old women.

“We felt that we were essentially a size-two network in a size-14 world, figuratively, in that we weren’t connecting with real women,” she said. “What you see now is women who have a voice — you see a range of women, whether its women who are struggling with weight loss or women who are high-end fashionistas. From Kimora to Ruby — it is about as broad a range as you can find on television.”

Smith believes the network’s new programming approach will help Style differentiate itself from other players in the female-targeted marketplace, including Lifetime, Oxygen and WE TV.

“I think of Style as the next generation of women’s network,” she said. “Networks like Lifetime or Oxygen tend to be more general entertainment-based, whereas Style serves a niche category of makeovers, but it happens to be a category that has particular appeal to women.”

Up next for Style is a new reality series dubbed Running in Heels, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the people who run fashion magazine Marie Claire. Smith said the network will continue to look for shows that celebrate the lives of everyday women.

“Women are constantly reinventing themselves, so what we try to do is represent reinvention on multiple levels,” she said. “We’re coming from the standpoint of we love you just as you are — but giving you the inspiration and hope to take it one step further.”

September