New Lifetime Drama: Picking a CEO
Programming is Lifetime's biggest problem, and it's what owners of
the women's network intend to shore up when they hire a new CEO this
That's the assessment of industry executives both inside and outside
Lifetime in the wake of Carole Black's recent decision to leave the network
March 30. Though Lifetime was run by men for a decade before Black was hired,
network owners Disney and Hearst are seen as wanting to keep a woman in charge
of the “Television for Women” channel.
Black leaves after six years, having succeeded in making Lifetime the
highest-rated cable network, only to watch its ratings plunge as audiences
drifted away from its original dramas and women-in-peril movies.
Though her departure is still five months away, plenty of names are
already cropping up as possible replacements.
Two candidates are in the Disney family, at Buena Vista Television,
which syndicates Disney's TV series, made-for-TV movies and first-run talk
shows. President Janice Marinelli's background is primarily in sales. Her
boss Laurie Younger has a more rounded résumé, including CFO of
ABC and director of business affairs at 20th Century Fox.
Another likely candidate is former Lifetime executive Bonnie Hammer.
Though she already has big turf as president of NBC's USA Network and Sci Fi
channel, one associate believes she could be lured by (and escape her contract
with) the CEO title. “That's tempting even to someone running a bigger
network,” says the president of another cable network.
A candidate from outside the Lifetime orbit: Cara Stein, co-COO of
William Morris Agency's New York office, who has already been chatting with
the network about its top programming job. Another option: Nina Tassler,
president of CBS Entertainment, previously head of drama development.
CNN to Kwame: You're Hired!
Having recently shuttered its CNNfn financial-news channel, CNN
resolved to beef up its business programming on the main network. That news
heartened the stable of seasoned business reporters at CNN—until they
glimpsed what it means. Kwame Jackson—former stockbroker, first-season
runner-up on The Apprentice, and
non-journalist—has been recruited by the news network for the pilot of a show
that CNNers refer to as “Inside the Actor's Studio for CEOs.” It will
feature Jackson interviewing business leaders and pop-culture figures about the
arc of their careers.
Jackson's appearance at CNN is not playing too well with experienced
hands. But the journalistic world isn't completely foreign to the Harvard
MBA: Jackson was Greta Van Susteren's guest at the White House Correspondents
Dinner last May. Maybe Van Susteren, the lawyer-turned-Fox News Channel-host,
could give him some pointers on making the jump into cable news.
The WB's Ex-Boss Tries Directing
Most network presidents, when they get the inevitable pink-slip,
trundle off to a similar network or studio job or get the obligatory
“independent production deal.” Not Jordan Levin. Since leaving the top slot
at The WB last June, Levin has turned out to be that rare axed exec who
actually does “pursue other interests.”
One pursuit: trying his hand at directing TV instead of commissioning
it. Levin was behind the camera for the Nov. 15 episode of the WB hit
Everwood. The once all-powerful network
chieftain might have been brought down several pegs to rookie-director status,
but the novice was working with a cast that other first-timers would kill for.
In addition to series star Treat Williams, the cast included James Earl Jones
and Anne Heche.
“It was like taking the wheel of a high-performance sports car—not
some used clunker,” says Levin. “You ask any of them to try something in a
scene and, man, they just take off. It was great.” Does this mean a career
shift? “Oh, I'd like to do it again,” says Levin. “But I'm not
looking to make it a full-time thing.”