Lifetime Unveils New Shows and Initiatives at Upfront

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Lifetime is developing a drama based on Teri Hatcher's book, a competition reality show for psychics and an original movie about the Hilton family. Those shows and several others were part of a new slate the women’s network unveiled to advertisers this morning at its upfront presentation in New York.
Highlighting the ratings-challenged network’s aim to “diversify” its lineup, entertainment President Susanne Daniels previewed the slate to advertisers at an 8:30 a.m. breakfast filled, as per the norm with Lifetime, with appearances by talent from the wide-ranging slate of shows.
The strategy, she said – program a variety of genres with shows from “blue-chip talent.” The breadth of fare, kicking off this summer with the first trio of scripted series Daniels’ has shepherded from start to finish , could be just what Lifetime needs to stop the double-digit ratings drops it’s seen over the past year.
Said Daniels, “Our stories are fresh. Our connection is deep. Our direction is bold.”
Burnt Toast, the Hatcher project, is an hour-long drama from ABC Television Studio based on Hatcher’s book of the same name. Loosely about Hatcher’s experience as a forty-plus mother raising her daughter, it is executive produced by the Desperate Housewives star and Allison Gibson (Reba).
Other scripted projects in development include Chambermaid, a dramedy about a recent law school grad from Paula Weinstein (Blood Diamond) and Jeffrey Levine (Monster in Law); Lovely and Talented, a drama about a divorcee who opens an acting school from Denise DiNovi (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants); and the previously announced Mile High and Bailey Weggins (B&C 4/2)
America’s Psychic Challenge, the reality show, is an hour-long pilot from Bunim-Murray. A likely pairing for Lifetime’s big success of last year, psychic show Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead, the show is being billed as a search for “America’s #1 Psychic.” It is reminiscent of The Gift, a reality show Sci Fi Channel announced last Jan. as a search to find a new clairvoyant .
Other reality projects in development include Going for Broke (Reveille, Super Delicious), an hour-long disciplinary show for women in debt; How to Look Good Naked (RDF), a half-hour, Carson Kressley-hosted makeover show and the previously announced Judgment Day (B&C 4/2).
More immediately, the network is pinning hopes for a ratings resurgence on the trio of new original dramas it will premiere this summer. To that end, Daniels trotted out talent, rolled clips and gave press rough cut DVDs of the pilots of each of the three – Army Wives, Side Order of Life and State of Mind. The former premieres June 3 (B&C 4/2/2007), and the latter two join July 15.
On the movie front, the network said it plans to premiere more than 50 new films this year, including one per month on sister channel Lifetime Movie Network. Titles in development include House of Hilton, based on the Jerry Oppenheimer book about the hotelier clan and Victoria Woodhull, the life story of the first woman to run for president.
Promising significant increases in programming, digital and pro-social initiatives, Lifetime President/CEO Betty Cohen touted the “special relationship” she said Lifetime has with women.
“I’m proud of how much momentum we’ve gained on each front,” she said.
On the digital front, Lifetime Ad Sales President/EVP/GM Lynn Picard previewed the soon-to-relaunch website LifetimeTV.com. The site, planned as a community for all things female and not just network content, will include a new broadband player and content from partners Hearst, About.com and others. Lifetime also said it plans a WAP (wireless access protocol) mobile application for fourth quarter and a new series of downloadable games in partnership with Real Arcade.
Finally, the network appealed to the media-buying crowd with a series of live, hosted games and sweeps interstitials it’s calling “PlayTV.” Similar to efforts from MTV and TBS , the initiative is a way for advertisers to create with a network content that showcases their brands.
“We’re always evaluating our show formats and our commercial breaks to keep viewers engaged,” Picard said.



In other women's network programming news, Cablevision's tiny WE channel announced new shows of its own this morning. The network issued second season pick-ups of its psychic series John Edward Cross Country as well as American Princess, and announced new show Twister Sisters, a docu-reality series about two sisters who trek across the Great Plains chasing storms.

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