Fifth Estater

Allen Living Well After a Lifetime of Lessons

Programming vet shepherds ABC-owned stations to produce multicasting gold standard 1/14/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Peggy Allen

Title:

VP of programming and operations, Live Well Network

Education:

B.A., Carleton College, 1980

Employment Highlights:

Producer, Catholic Television Network, 1980

Production assistant, WMAQ Chicago, 1981-83

Executive producer, WCVB Boston, 1983-89 Director, Hearst/ ABC News Services, 1989-91

Director of development, Hearst Broadcasting Productions, 1991-93

VP of original programming and production, Lifetime Television, 1993-97

Partner, Allen/ Nee Productions, 1997-2008

Senior project manager, ROI Ventures, 2008-10

Current title since 2010

Personal:

Born Feb. 6, 1958; husband, Todd; daughters Kate, 26 (fourthyear veterinary student at Cornell), and Lori, 24 (singer and composer in the band The Other Bones)

Peggy Allen works best when growing something from the
ground up, whether positioning Lifetime as an entertainment
channel for women in its early days, building up the distribution
framework for Live Well Network or, most recently,
fulfilling a long-held dream of starting her own sheep farm.

When Allen, the VP of programming at ABC’s
Live Well, and her boss, Rebecca Campbell,
sat down for a strategy session after network
founder Emily Barr departed for a new job,
Campbell suggested Allen move to ABC HQ
in Burbank, Calif.

But Allen, with family back East, had another
thought. “I said, we always wanted to own
sheep—we’re thinking of moving to Vermont
to start a sheep farm,” Allen says. “Rebecca
came right back and said, ‘You know what—
all the work you do, you do virtually anyway.
Go to Vermont, do what you want to do.’”

These days, Allen, her husband, Todd, and
their 11 sheep are braving the sub-zero Vermont
temperatures and living the dream on
32 acres of what she calls an “exquisite bucolic
setting.” With a phone line, Internet and willingness
to hop on a plane, she says she could
work from just about anywhere.

Allen was raised in Greenwich, Conn.,
where her mother taught school and her father
is a town lawyer. Her first job out of college
involved producing programming for the
Catholic Television Network; she next landed
at WMAQ Chicago. When Todd’s educational
pursuits sent him to Boston, she landed at
Hearst’s WCVB, producing the iconic morning
variety show Good Day! that is widely believed
to be the prototype for Good Morning America.

Allen saw firsthand the role a station could
play in its community. “WMAQ was fabulous,
but as an O&O [it was] more reluctant to preempt
primetime,” she says. “WCVB—with
[ground-breaking newsmagazine] Chronicle
starting out and that morning show—was an
unbelievable station to work at.”

Allen spent a decade at Hearst, at WCVB
and then at corporate, before shifting to cable
in 1993. She was VP of original programming
at Lifetime and played a significant part in the
network “coming out of the closet,” as she
puts it, as “Television for Women.” Her fondest
memories there include a Carly Simon performance
special on the famed Grand Central
Terminal concourse in New York.

Doug McCormick, president and CEO of
Lifetime at the time, credits Allen for the critical
shaping of Lifetime’s brand and for cultivating
fresh talent. “Peggy was always good at
bringing in quality shows on time and on budget.
You can’t ask for much more than that,” says
McCormick, now at a venture capital firm. “I associate
her with a lot of our success at the time.”

Allen then spent a decade as a partner at
Allen/Nee Productions, working on brand extension
and productions for clients ranging
from Time Inc.’s magazines to Food Network.

Live Well launched in 2009, a female-targeted
multicast network airing on the then 10 ABCowned
stations. Focusing on topics such as
health, cooking and design, the six initial series
were produced by the owned stations.

While other digital networks show decadesold
reruns, Live Well is growing its stable of
homegrown originals. Notably, other prominent
groups, starting with Belo late in 2010,
cleared Live Well for some of their stations’
subchannels. The network was run as something
of a side job by ABC station personnel,
but its rapid growth sparked the need for fulltime
dedication. Toward that end, Allen came
on board in October 2010.

Campbell, ABC Owned Television Stations
president, says it was Allen’s mix of standout
broadcast and cable experience that made her
the right fit. After all, the network’s niche " avor
owes a debt to cable, while its affiliate partners
are broadcasters. “I like to call her the air traffic
controller,” Campbell says. “I used to call Live
Well the ‘Little Engine That Could,’ but it’s no
longer a little engine. We never would’ve gotten
to 70% of the country if we didn’t have many
Peggys at our stations, but [Allen] is the one
who brings it all together.”

Barr left to run the Post-Newsweek station
group last year. But she continues to watch
Live Well’s—and Allen’s— progress. “There
aren’t enough accolades to give her,” Barr says.
“She’s been absolutely critical to the whole development
and growth of Live Well Network.”
(The sheep farm, notes Barr, is “so vintage
Peggy and Todd.”)

Allen says she misses working alongside
Barr, but believes Live Well has a signi! cant
champion in Campbell. “It’s pretty great to
have the president of the division out there
talking about the network in absolutely every
meeting she goes to,” Allen says.

The Live Well principals are hiring a senior
VP/general manager and continue to add new
shows to the mix. A five-night programming
stunt, “Miss America: Secrets Revealed,” ran
in early January (“It’s our Shark Week,” Allen
quips), and Sweet Retreats, a travel series hosted
by former CBS Early Show cohost Rene Syler,
debuts Jan. 20.

They’re also kicking around a program concept
about people who have pulled off a complete
180-degree turnaround in their lives.
Campbell jokes that Allen and her four-legged,
wooly friends would be perfect for it. But Allen
seems quite content in her day job.

“It’s definitely very mixed every day—it’s
like what it used to be in the old days of cable,”
Allen says. “There aren’t a lot of layers. If
you want to try something, you go try it.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him
on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

Peggy Allen

Title:

VP of programming and operations, Live Well Network

Education:

B.A., Carleton College, 1980

Employment Highlights:

Producer, Catholic Television Network, 1980

Production assistant, WMAQ Chicago, 1981-83

Executive producer, WCVB Boston, 1983-89 Director, Hearst/ ABC News Services, 1989-91

Director of development, Hearst Broadcasting Productions, 1991-93

VP of original programming and production, Lifetime Television, 1993-97

Partner, Allen/ Nee Productions, 1997-2008

Senior project manager, ROI Ventures, 2008-10

Current title since 2010

Personal:

Born Feb. 6, 1958; husband, Todd; daughters Kate, 26 (fourthyear veterinary student at Cornell), and Lori, 24 (singer and composer in the band The Other Bones)

 

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