Geraldine Laybourne (born 1947) founded Oxygen Media and served as its chairman and chief executive officer until it was sold in 2007 to NBC Universal. Oxygen was launched in 2000 to fill a void in the television landscape—creating a television network targeted to younger women. During her tenure there, Oxygen, available in more than 70 million cable households, was the only women-owned and operated cable network.
Laybourne was born Geraldine Bond on May 19, 1947 in Martinsville, New Jersey, a rural community of about 400. She is the second of four children, born to a former soap opera writer/actress and a local businessman.
Laybourne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Vassar College. After graduation, she went to work for an architectural firm in Philadelphia. Eventually, she earned a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1980, Laybourne signed on as program manager at the year-old network, where she initiated the focus-group approach to programming.
Laybourne was one of the first people to focus on television programming for kids. She spent 15 years at Nickelodeon, taking over the management of the network, and started accepting advertising for the network, in 1984.
Laybourne and her team were responsible for creating and building the Nickelodeon brand, launching Nick at Nite and expanding the network by establishing it in other countries, developing theme parks and creating Nickelodeon movie, toy and publishing divisions.
Under her leadership, Nickelodeon became the top-rated 24-hour cable programming service and won Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards, CableACE Awards and Parents' Choice Awards. The network had a 40% profit margin with 36% growth every year.
Laybourne built Nickelodeon into the first global television network to profit from selling advertising targeted towards children. Her 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.
Laybourne left Nickelodeon in 1996 to become president of Disney-ABC Cable Networks, guiding the growth and overseeing the programming of the Disney Channel, Lifetime, A&E, and The History Channel. Although Laybourne played a role in the creation and management of ABC’s Saturday morning children’s programming schedule, she's said to have felt stifled by the corporate structure at Disney.
In 1998, she left Disney and partnered with Oprah Winfrey and Carsey-Werner Productions to create Oxygen Media, dedicated to cable and Internet programming for women. She also purchased three women-oriented online services from her former MTV boss, Robert W. 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.
LVMH was an early investor, but left in 2001 when Laybourne changed strategy from being an Internet company to a television company.
Laybourne initially hired 700 people, but scaled down to 250. The company went on to become profitable in 2004.
At the end of Laybourne's tenure, Oxygen had 270,000 prime-time weekday viewers in 74 million homes.
Laybourne has been ranked No. 1 among the 50 Most Influential Women in the Entertainment Industry by The Hollywood Reporter, named one of the 25 Most Influential people in America by Time Magazine and has been awarded the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Children and Television, the New York Women in Communications Matrix Award for Broadcasting, the Creative Coalition’s Spotlight Award, the Grand Tam Award from the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), the Governor’s Award from the National Academy of Cable Programming, the Alliance for Women in Media Genii Award, the Women in Cable Award, the Sara Lee Corporation’s Frontrunner Award, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the University of Missouri–Kansas City and the New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award.
Laybourne has been inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and the Cable Center Hall of Fame.
Laybourne sits on the boards or advisory committees of The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, The National Council for Families and Television, New York Women in Film & Television (Advisory Board), Cable Positive (Honorary Chair), the Board of Trustees of Vassar College, Insight Communications, Symantec Corporation, J. C. Penney, Move.com, and mySkin Inc.
Laybourne started the mentoring program, Global Women's Mentoring Walks, which pairs established and emerging women professionals to engage in mentoring partnerships in communities across the globe.
She and her husband Kit Laybourne, a television producer, entrepreneur, author, and educator, have two children, Emmy and Sam. Emmy Laybourne Podunovich is the author of the Monument 14 series of young adult novels and an actress appearing in Superstar and other films. Sam Laybourne is a writer and producer for television series such as Arrested Development, Cougar Town and The Michael J. Fox Show comedy series airing on NBC in 2013-2014.
- Lisa Genasci (October 28, 1995). "President of Nickelodeon Channels Her Resources; Television: President Geraldine Laybourne couples creativity and business acumen in making cable TV network top choice among children.". Los Angeles Times. p. D-4. "Laybourne was born Geraldine Bond in 1947 in Martinsville, N.J..."
- Lisa Genasci (October 28, 1995). "President of Nickelodeon Channels Her Resources; Television: President Geraldine Laybourne Couples Creativity and Business Acumen in Making Cable Network Top Choice Among Children.". Los Angeles Times. p. D-4. "Laybourne was born Geraldine Bond in 1947 in Martinsville, N.J..."
- Horace Newcomb (2004). Encyclopedia of television. Museum of Broadcast Communications. p. 1332 ff.
- "Television: Will Women Take A Breath Of Oxygen?". Time. January 31, 2000.
- "World According to...Geraldine Laybourne". Portfolio. January 24, 2008.
- "Geraldine Laybourne Biography". Biography.com. 2011.
- "Cable Hall of Fame". Cablecenter.org. 2004.
- Patricia Seller (2010). "Patricia Sellers on Geraldine Laybourne and the 2009 Mentoring Walk". Vital Voices Global Partnership.
- "Michael J. Fox Returning to TV Full Time with New Comedy Series". Screenrant.com. 2012.