Lifetime Traffics in Top Actors

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Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland will lend their Oscar- and Emmy Award-winning acting skills to women’s network Lifetime Television for a two-part October miniseries on sex trafficking called, appropriately, Human Trafficking.

The flick, which next week begins three months of filming in Montreal, Prague, and Thailand, is part of a 33% increase in original programming the network has mapped out for 2005/2006.

Included in that development slate is the first-ever limited series (six hours), Beach Girls, a gal pal story based on the Luanne Rice novel that bows July 25.

Also in the pipeline are new scripted originals Scarlett, a half-hour series about a New Orleans-based Gothic horror executive produced by Robert Wolfe (The 4400, Andromeda), Hans Beimler (The Twilight Zone) and Bruce Willis’ production company Cheyenne; and The Harbinger, a weekly hour series executive produced by CBS/Pax exec Jeff Sagansky and Paul Stupin (Dawson’s Creek) that asks what characters would do if they had 24 hours to live and could travel anywhere past, present or future.

Lifetime, which a few weeks ago named cable veteran Betty Cohen as its new CEO/President, held its New York upfront presentation Thursday, entertaining advertisers with performances by Chaka Khan and appearances by, among others, Kelsey Grammer, whose Frasier joins the network in March, Mark Consuelos and Vivica A. Fox, whose Missing is scheduled to return for a third season June 12 and Rick Shroder, who joins the sixth season of medical drama Strong Medicine in June and regaled them with iPod shuffles as parting gifts.

The network, which averaged 1.78 million total viewers in first quarter 2005 – up 8% from last year – scored its fifth consecutive month of household ratings growth in March. Original movies have consistently performed well for Lifetime, with 2005’s movies to date averaging 3.9 million total viewers.

This fall, the Disney/ABC and Hearst-owned network, will launch Lifetime Wireless for Women, a mobile service featuring text alerts on programming information from Lifetime and Lifetime.com, and ring tones and wallpaper from Lifetime talent.

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