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NBC Pulls The Curtain Up On Virtual Women’s Network; Plans Hyper-local Content Center In NYC

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NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) has finally launched [email protected], its long-anticipated virtual female-targeted content and ad network. Also as expected (by us, at least), Lauren Zalaznick has been promoted to president, Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks — and adds iVillage to her portfolio. Zalaznick had been president of Bravo Media and Oxygen Media; she will still report to Jeff Gaspin, president and COO, Universal Television Group. Gaspin took over iVillage on an interim basis following Beth Comstock’s recent return to GE. Combined, the two moves leave NBCU with very little in the way of excuses when it comes to integrating expensive acquisitions iVillage and Oxygen and making the most of the virtual network’s advertising and marketing potential.

Zalaznick won’t be running iVillage day to day but Deborah Fine, president of iVillage Properties, will report to her. This completes a significant evolution for iVillage from standalone property reporting to one of the top NBCU corporate execs to life within a group within a bigger group. How it actually will affect iVillage remains to be seen.

Virtual content and ad network [email protected] also will serve as a hub for other properties, such as eco-friendly site Green is Universal and other female-skewing properties such as the Today show and a number of other NBC primetime programs (think The Biggest Loser, Lipstick Jungle. Zalaznick will continue to report to Jeff Gaspin, president and COO of the Universal Television Group.

Women are ‘in’ these days: Although NBCU has been working on this effort for months, the online space targeting women has suddenly become very crowded. In just the past two months, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) has launched its women’s site, Shine, while traditional media stars Liz Smith, Lesley Stahl, Peggy Noonan, Mary Wells and others linked arms to launch WowoWow (WomanOnTheWeb). Meanwhile, AOL (NYSE: TWX) has been quietly developing its own women’s site, albeit one that’s targeted to younger demographics.

Getting it right this time: The effort can also be seen as a way to pave over the kinds of cross-platform struggles iVillage has undergone the past several months, such as when NBCU pulled the plug on the iVillage Live TV show due to disastrous ratings. The site itself has been trying to keep its head above water with a series of overhauls as well since being acquired by NBCU for $600 million over two years ago. More about Zalaznick’s promotion here, while more details about [email protected] are available here.

NBCU Forms Local ‘Content Center’: Separately, NBCU announced it is creating a 24-hour news network focusing on “hyper-local” coverage around its east coast operations in general and its New York-based broadcast affiliate WNBC. The revamped news network is part of a larger plan to rebuild ts 30 Rockefeller Center HQ into a “multimillion dollar content center.” The company has a similar operation already set up on the west coast in LA. The NYT reports that NBC will remove WNBC