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Just Like Old Times For Lifetime, Drama Couplet Starts Strong

8/10/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Finally, Lifetime has received some good ratings news. After some down time, Lifetime scored big last week with its two new original dramas, 1-800-Missing and Wild Card. They premiered Aug. 3 with stellar Nielsen marks.

1-800-Missing, which stars ER
vet Gloria Reuben as an FBI agent who teams with a teen psychic to solve missing persons cases, nabbed a 3.1 rating with 3.3 million viewers. Wild Card, featuring Joely Fisher as a former Las Vegas card dealer who leaves that job to raise her sister's three children and starts a new career investigating insurance fraud, followed at 10 p.m., nabbed a 2.7 with 2.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Those marks rival the ratings routinely posted by Lifetime's established Sunday night dramas The Division
and Strong Medicine. The new dramas, airing on Saturdays, have opened up a new night of originals for Lifetime.

Buoyed by its originals, Lifetime's prime time average perked up to a 2.1 rating for the week of July 28 to Aug. 3, one of the few weeks recently that the channel has surpassed a 2.0. That used to be routine for Lifetime, the top-rated cable net in 2002.

But the first half of this year has been rough. July ratings were off 10% from a 2.0 last year and second quarter marks fell 19% to a 1.7. Acquired movies have faltered, as has Unsolved Mysteries.

Lifetime CEO Carole Black had predicted her channel would bounce back come summertime. Black and programming head Barbara Fisher are moving to ease the network's dependence on acquired fare and ramp up original movies and series. Plans call for Lifetime to spend $800 million on programming over the next two years.

Upcoming debuts include two new lifestyle shows, Merge, where newlyweds blend their belongings, and a makeover show aptly titled Make Me Over. Fisher is also focusing on making more original movies.

March