May 19, 1947
|Other names||Gerry Laybourne|
University of Pennsylvania
|Known for||CEO of Oxygen Media|
|Children||Emmy Laybourne, Sam Laybourne|
Geraldine Laybourne (née Bond; born May 19, 1947) is a former TV executive and an American entrepreneur in media and technology. She led the team that created Nickelodeon in the 1980s and 1990s and co-founded Oxygen Media. She is co-founder of a tech startup called Katapult.
Laybourne was raised in Martinsville, a rural community of about 400 in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey. She is the second of four children, born to a former radio writer/actress and community organizer and a stock broker.
In 1969, Laybourne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Vassar College. In 1971, she received a Master of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
After college, Laybourne had various jobs. From 1969 to 1970, Laybourne worked at Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd, an architecture firm in Philadelphia. From 1972 to 1973, she worked as a teacher at Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts. Then from 1974 to 1976, Laybourne worked as a festival coordinator of the New York American Film Festival.
In 1974, she co-founded the Media Center for Children, which she was involved with until 1977. Laybourne said she founded the Media Center for Children because she was concerned about the media her children were watching.
From 1978 to 1980, she was a partner at Early Bird Special Company in New York.
In 1980, Laybourne was hired as a program manager at Nickelodeon, a 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 magazine, 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 and explosive 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 and represented the corporate interests in Lifetime, A&E, E!, and The History Channel. She led the development two projects that did not come to fruition: ABC 24 Hour News cable channel and ABZ, an innovative education channel. Laybourne played a role in the creation and management of ABC's Saturday morning children's programming schedule, with the successful launch of One Saturday morning. She's said to have felt stifled by the corporate structure at Disney.
In 1998, Laybourne left Disney and partnered with Oprah Winfrey and Carsey-Werner Productions to create Oxygen Media, a cable TV company dedicated to creating television 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. Microsoft billionaire, Paul Allen, who invested in three rounds of Oxygen, forced Oxygen's sale in the late 2007 to NBC Universal for $925 million. At the end of Laybourne's tenure, Oxygen had 270,000 prime-time weekday viewers in 74 million homes.
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.
Her daughter, Emmy Laybourne is an author of a series of young adult novels called Monument 14 and is an actress who has appeared in Superstar and other films. Her son Sam is a former child actor and an Emmy nominated writer and producer on shows such as Black-ish, Arrested Development, Cougar Town, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Grandfathered with John Stamos.