Opportunity of a Lifetime

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Susanne Daniels sees competition everywhere. Now, after two months on the job as Lifetime's entertainment president, she's trying to set the network apart. The former head of The WB's entertainment division has already picked up an office comedy, a reality show about high school cheerleading and off-net rights to Paramount Domestic Television's Medium. B&C's Anne Becker spoke with her about changes at Lifetime.

What have been your highest priorities during your first two months on the job?

My main priority is—now and always—the new programming. In fact, whenever I get momentarily distracted with personnel changes or other things I'm looking at or thinking about, I'm constantly tapping myself and reminding myself that you have to keep your eye on the prize: fresh programming for Lifetime.

Which networks do you view as your competition?

It's hard to ignore the broadcast networks, especially when you see show good shows geared toward women. I love Grey's Anatomy, and you see ABC's success with really targeting women, so the broadcast networks are as much my competition as cable networks like USA and TNT. Grey's is such a chick show. I was looking at the commercials last night, and every single commercial, practically, was for birth control for women. It was hilarious.

With so many networks targeting young female viewers, are you concerned about alienating your traditional viewer base of older women?

I think there's a way to approach the programming where I can ideally bring in new and younger viewers to Lifetime without turning away that core loyal audience. One way you can do that is by developing shows with multigenerational points of view. I think you'll see that, in some of our upcoming programming, including this new reality show I bought. Yes, it's a look at the leading high school cheerleading team, but it's also very much a look at parenting teenagers today and how complicated a task that has become.

Why does The Golden Girls appeal to so many young women?

We get calls and letters from young women asking us when we're going to make new episodes of Golden Girls, and this is a show that was made 20 years ago. Maybe these are today's grandmothers. Maybe it's because it's a look at an older generation of women who were empowered literally before their time and that empowerment before their time is now relevant at a time when they actually have that level of independence in their lifestyle. And it's funny. At the end of the day, why does any comedy work? The first and foremost answer has to be that it makes you laugh.

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