More than two years after its launch, E! Networks' fledgling Style Network 24 hours of fashion, beauty and design will finally reach around 250,000 Los Angeles households by the end of this year.
The Style Network is targeted to women between the ages of 18 and 49 with a current national subscriber base of 7 million. A recent carriage deal with four top U.S. cable operators is expected to rocket its subscriber base to 25 million.
Though it has taken some time for Style to get off the ground, that's not unusual for new cable networks. Larry Gerbrandt, a senior analyst at Paul Kagen Associates, said it often takes five or six years before new channels reach critical mass.
In Los Angeles, Style has signed a deal with Adelphia that will bring the station to its 250,000 L.A. subscribers in such communities as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Eagle Rock and Arcadia. There is a lag between the time the deal was signed and the time the channel will be rolled out because cable operators make changes in their programming lineup only once a year.
Analysts say E!, like most cable networks expanding into new ventures, is likely using itself as leverage to convince operators to pick up the Style channel giving them a lower price to carry E! if they agree to pick up Style.
The biggest test for the network will be whether advertisers will buy into its style and beauty formula, which to date has not attracted big viewership but then, it has been carried in so few markets that ratings up until now have not been measurable.
"As their distribution grows, it will be that much easier to attract advertisers," said Tim Spengler, executive vice president and director of national broadcast buying at media buying agency Initiative Media.
Style is competing with a small number of fashion offerings on other cable TV channels, such as "Style With Elsa Klensch" on CNN. But that consists of 30 minutes of fashion-show footage and other material, not 24 hours of fashion coverage like what's shown on the Style Network.
Scott Leon, vice president of entertainment news for CNN, said Klensch is not concerned about competition from the Style Network and will not change her show in any way.
"I think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I am not sure that even the most voracious fan can take 24 hours of it," Leon said.
The Style Network has been raising its profile in the fashion world, recently signing an agreement with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and fashion-show producer 7th on Sixth that will allow unlimited coverage of New York's spring and fall fashion weeks, where designers from around the world converge to show their collections.
"This new relationship will certainly help us to build the network's brand, image and breadth of programming content," said Marta Tracy, the network's senior vice president and head of programming.
Representatives of New York's fashion world, meanwhile, are pleased that their productions will get a wider audience through the network.
"For us, this agreement means that millions of people will now get to experience, first-hand, all the excitement and glamour from the tents in New York's Bryant Park to build anticipation for all the new collections," said Fern Mallis, executive director of 7th on Sixth, which produces the spring and fall fashion weeks.
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