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One of the most influential women in the entertainment industry, Geraldine Laybourne is the founder of Oxygen Media, former manager of Nickelodeon, and has served in several other leadership positions within the world of tech and entertainment. She is admired and respected for her pioneering role in the development and growth of cable television during the 80s and 90s.
During her sixteen years at Nickelodeon, Ms. Laybourne grew the children’s network into a family staple and an $8 billion business. As program manager and eventually, manager of the network, she and her team turned the channel into the top-rated 24-hour cable programming service, expanding it to a global audience and picking up numerous Emmy Awards,Peabody Awards, CableACE Awards and Parents’ Choice Awards along the way.
Later in her career, Ms. Laybourne embarked on her first official entrepreneurial venture, partnering with Oprah Winfrey and Carsey-Warner Productions. Over the course of ten years she took the women-oriented Oxygen network from conception to 74 million homes.
Since selling Oxygen to NBC Universal for $925 million, she has continued her career as a serial entrepreneur. Currently, she is she is the Chairman and co-Founder of Kandu, a kid’s technology company.
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A pioneer in creating innovative and high-quality television programming for children, Ms. Laybourne spent 16 years at Nickelodeon, taking over the management of the network in 1984.
Ms. Laybourne and her team were responsible for creating and building the Nickelodeon brand and, in 1985, for launching Nick at Nite, the successful primetime line-up of retro sitcoms. Under her leadership, Nickelodeon became the top-rated 24-hour cable programming service and won several notable honors, including Emmys®, Peabodys®, CableACE® and Parent’s Choice® awards, among numerous others.
Prior to starting Oxygen, Ms. Laybourne was president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks (from 1996-1998) where she was responsible for overseeing current cable programming for the Walt Disney Company and its ABC subsidiary.
Ms. Laybourne has been singled out for her many contributions to the industry. She was ranked No. 1 among the 50 most influential women in the entertainment industry by The Hollywood Reporter in 1996 and named one of the 25 most influential people in America by Time magazine that same year. In 1995, she was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. In October of 2004 she was inducted into The Cable Center Hall of Fame.
Ms. Laybourne sits on a number of boards and advisory committees, including The National Cable Television Association, The National Council for Families and Television, New York Women in Film & Television (Advisory Board), and Cable Positive (Honorary Chair). From 1990 to 1995 she served on the Board of Kinder Care Learning Centers. Ms. Laybourne recently became a member of the Board of Directors of Insight Communications. She also currently serves as board president of the Alumnae and Alumni of Vassar College (AAVC).
Ms. Laybourne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Vassar College and a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to her entertainment career, Ms. Laybourne was a teacher, conducted research with children and was an early advocate of education through media. A native of Martinsville, New Jersey, she and her husband Kit, a producer, author and animator, have two children and one granddaughter.
Cable pioneer Geraldine Laybourne reveals what it was like to trail blaze a leadership role as a woman at a time when females in business were advised to “wear navy blue” and “not let their emotions show.” She relays the need for women to promote each other and work together in order to advance their careers and roles within the corporate world.
She states that often when women offered ideas at Nickelodeon, they were ignored, but if a man later said the same thing, he was patted on the back while “his brilliant idea” was soon put into development. However, she and the other ladies handled the dynamic with subtlety, grace, and by “tooting others’ horns,” always making it a point to thank the “alpha males” in the executive room for “supporting Sara’s idea” or whoever had first put forth the proposal.
While today’s entertainment industry is well established, starting up iconic cable networks like Nickelodeon and Oxygen was no small feat. Geraldine Laybourne shares smart entrepreneurial advice about what it takes to write your own rules and develop a profitable enterprise with few resources and little support. One of the most influential women in her industry, she offers key guidelines for ladies in leadership and business, drawing from her own fascinating story about how she “clawed her way to the top.”
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