Wong Speaks - Q&A With New Lifetime Chief

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Moments after being named President/CEO of Lifetime, Andrea Wong took a few minutes to talk with B&C’s Anne Becker. Here are parts of that interview:

Congratulations on this being official.
Thank you very much. I'm incredibly excited about being here.
When are you actually starting?
I’m pretty much starting right now.

Can you say how long you’ve been in talks for this job?
All I can tell you is it happened very, very quickly and yesterday was obviously a crazy day.

Are you moving to New York?
I’m going to be spending most of my time here.

Your background is mostly in programming – how do you feel about taking on the added responsibilities that come with running these cable networks?
I’m really excited about it. There’s a first time that everyone becomes a CEO of a company and certainly there’s a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do, but I have sort of an eclectic background beyond programming with a business background and, oddly, an engineering background. So I really think it’s drawing on all of my collective experiences to lead this team. And the most exciting thing for me, or a great advantage for me, is that I have really strong people here who run programming and run affiliate sales and Lynn Picard running sales. And so I hope to really get in and work with them as a team and certainly have them fortify the team.

Can you speak to whether Susanne Daniels will be staying?
Well, I think Susanne is incredibly talented and I would love for her to be – I’m looking forward to working with her and I would love for her to be a part of the team.

Have you worked with her before?
I’ve never worked with her before, actually, but I’ve known her in the industry and always really liked her and enjoyed being with her. She was at ABC before my time.

And what about the open marketing chief job? Are you going to have a hand in filling it?
Yes, I mean, that’s my first priority, finding that person.

Do you have a list of people you’re looking at?
I do not have a list of people already since it’s just been a couple of hours. But I recognize that’s a really important position because we need to ensure that we can launch these shows properly this summer.

You’ve spoken to the strength of Lifetime’s brand – can you expand upon the health of the brand and whether you plan to institute any kind of rebrand?
I don’t know there’s a rebrand. Lifetime is clearly an incredibly strong brand for women. It is the number six cable network overall among 70 cable networks and number one in women. And Lifetime Movie Network being, by the way, number two. So for me, what I think the opportunity is an opportunity to broaden the brand and evolve it to be even more inclusive of women and to grow that audience and so that’s what I intend to do. It’s way too early for me to even know whether there’s a rebrand opportunity or not.

You have these three new summer shows and an ambitious slate of shows in development – is there anything that, as a programmer, jumps out at you as particularly exciting?
It’s hard to say right now because I only know what even I’ve just read. To be honest, I know as much as you do about it at this point. I’m going to go to the LA offices on Monday and meet with everyone and get more involved and I’m excited about that. A lot of it sounds great. I saw the pilot for Army Wives and I thought it was great and so I think it’s premature to comment any further on it.

Can you describe your leadership style?
I’m very much a straight shooter. I’m very collaborative. I really believe in, sort of, direct and open communication and working as a team and I really value relationships. The other thing I would say is – and you can probably ask anybody who works with me at ABC about this – I really believe in empowering people who work with me. It’s like, you hire really strong people and you let them do their jobs and you guide them when they need guidance and you let them grow and build their areas and you empower them to do that.

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