“When you lose yourself inside a story, you just might find your own.” That’s the slogan Lifetime used at its upfront Tuesday in New York, where the network pitched itself to advertisers as a revamped programmer for today’s women, young and old.
New President/CEO Betty Cohen, Entertainment President Susanne Daniels and General Manager Lynn Picard (also head of ad sales and Executive VP, Interactive Entertainment, for Lifetime Entertainment Services) unveiled the catchphrase as the lyrics of an original theme song to which they set to highlights of upcoming programming on the network.
Lifetime is conducting its first upfront with programs developed under WB veteran Daniels, who joined the network in August. The network for women, once the top-rated cable entertainment channel, is trying to reclaim that status by targeting younger women while not alienating older viewers. Lifetime averaged 1.45 million total viewers during prime in February, down 10% from last year.
The network now has a “laser focus on who women are today and who they want to become,” said Cohen, noting that, when she worked in promotions at Lifetime 20 years ago, the channel featured shows such as Surgery Sunday, Salute To the Elderly and Gynecology Update. She promised programming both entertaining and emotionally stimulating for women who are “emotionally unplugged” during the day, balancing work and family life.
In keeping with that message, the network unveiled a multi-platform research project – the Lifetime Women’s Pulse Poll – to track women’s habits and behavior for viewers, advertisers, affiliates and others. As part of the project, Lifetime’s at work on Generation Why?, a fourth quarter special hosted by WillowBay which compares Generations X and Y and the baby boomers.
Having premiered reality show Cheerleader Nation, Daniels’ first major offering, earlier this month, the network is most heavily focusing on two summer premieres – June’s improv comedy Lovespring, produced by Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack, and July’s truth-versus-lies-focused crime drama Angela’s Eyes, from the producers of Oscar-winning movie Crash. It will also debut acquired NBC series Medium as a Sunday-night weekly series next week.
Later this year and into next, the network will roll out a host of reality and scripted series, as well as original movies. They include:
-Paws, an inside look at a Hollywood pet agency from the executive producers of Bravo’s Blowout (think of it as the Westminster dog show meets America’s Next Top Model, Daniels says).
-Election, a chronicle of a Washington, D.C., high school election, whose candidates will be coached by husband/wife political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin (slated for fourth quarter, from executive producer R.J. Cutler).
-Alessandra, an hour-long talk show from Latin American TV personality and therapist Alessandra Rampollo.
-Finding Mr. Right, a dating series in which women have to guess whether their male suitors are gay, single or married.
-Karaoke Queens, a reality movie from dramality pioneers Go Go Luckey Productions (Laguna Beach).
-State of Mind, a dramedy from Nip/Tuck producers Greer Shephard and Michael Robin, about a therapist who finds out her husband is sleeping with their own couples' therapist.
-The Honorable and Mrs., a backdoor pilot from Sex and the City writer Amy Harris about an ambassador and a CIA agent.
-Bianca, an American adaptation of a German TV series about forbidden love.
-The Funeral Planner, an adaptation from a novel about a celebratory funeral home.
-Firebrand, a Stan Lee superhero tale of a forensics investigator who fights crime by night.
-Fantasia, the real-life story of American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino.
-Eight Days to Live, a story of a family in turmoil, starring The OC’s Kelly Rowan.
-The Mermaid Chair, based on a Sue Monk Kidd novel.
-Not Like Everyone Else, the story of a modern-day witch hunt starring Ileanna Douglas and Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat.
-The Gwen Araujo Story, the real-life story of a mother’s relationship with her transexual child.
The network also previously annouced plans to adapt four Nora Roberts novels into movies.
Lifetime’s sister network Lifetime Movie Network will also premiere an original movie every month starting in August, including Soccer Mom Mysteries, which will also be spun off into a 10-month broadband minseries of seven-minute episodes. The network launched a broadband subsite, LMN.tv, Monday night.
Elsewhere in multi-platform initiatives at the network, Lifetime is working on deals with Sprint and Verizon for its original mobile content – love and dating, astrology, diet and fitness programming, as well as clips from Lifetime shows – and stepping up its production of “casual games,” online games that are popular with women.