As a pioneer in understanding the importance of emotionally connecting to viewers, Lifetime was the first TV network to recognize the power of women, the complexity of their lives and the need to speak to them in different ways through different programming genres. Lifetime has always represented great storytelling. The future of any media brand will rely on content that is compelling, engaging and relatable to audiences.
Lifetime values what our viewers want and their need for connection. We understand women are complicated. They can be intellectual, intuitive, pragmatic, emotional, powerful and playful—all at the same time.
Central to creating programming that speaks to our audience is providing opportunities for female writers, producers, executive producers and directors. At Lifetime, 60 percent of writers on our 2011 original series are female, compared to the industry average of 15 percent. Among show producers, 60 percent are women, compared to 37 percent industrywide. Almost half of our executive producers and 27 percent of our directors are females, compared to the industry average of 22 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
It’s something that I believe in and something I learned from my mentor, Abbe Raven, CEO of A+E Networks. In entertainment, women are essential to creating transformation. As audiences require compelling content, female decision makers can help create it, making our industry stronger and more dynamic.
Our programming must tell today’s female viewers that we understand how different kinds of programming can meet her desires. She wants stories that help her escape and characters who inspire or motivate her. She wants something original and relevant to her.
It’s a very complicated process to be a comprehensive brand that represents the experiences and sensibilities of women in an honest and contemporary way. In fact, this issue of Adweek reports on this very challenge.
This past year, Lifetime has been working on all cylinders. We’ve created a pipeline of 175 hours of original programming with scripted and nonscripted series and movies. We’ve seen gains with viewers. Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva are two of the most successful scripted series in cable. Dance Moms’ second season saw a stunning 150 percent jump in total viewers with double- and triple-digit gains across all demographics. Drew Peterson: Untouchable, starring Rob Lowe, was cable’s most watched original movie in the past two years.
Our commitment to changing Lifetime’s business model from mostly off-network acquisitions to wholly owned original programming will help reinvent our brand. We’ve increased the number of original premiere hours by 70 percent thus far. And this year, 100 percent of our prime-time hours will feature original programming.
Lifetime’s brand reinvention and new look will be introduced on-air this April, anchored by more original shows and movies with bigger stars, bolder characters, and thought-provoking themes and stories.
For example, The Client List will star Jennifer Love Hewitt as a woman faced with controversial choices in dire economic times. The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet is an intimate take on the celebrity interview. Steel Magnolias is a remake of the classic film with a contemporary twist: an all African-American cast. Cinnamon Girl, produced by Renée Zellweger, will introduce four young women as they navigate life in the tumultuous ’60s. And Dance Moms Miami will extend our popular dance competition-themed reality franchise. These shows will take the storytelling emblematic of Lifetime and infuse modern sensibilities that stretch limits, engage new viewers, and reaffirm characters and stories that are relatable and evolutionary.
Why now? Life is about reinvention. We admire people who reinvent themselves, revealing to us their talents one layer at a time. It’s a quality that keeps us intrigued.
Lifetime’s goal is to be the voice of women as they are today—bold, provocative, smart and authentic. Lifetime’s new look and feel will embody a female spirit, yet speak in a universal language. Regardless of culture or status, we are constantly balancing time for family, career, relationships and self.
So when viewers spend time with Lifetime, it must be memorable. Lifetime creates times when people can laugh, feel and connect. It’s a natural expression of our brand and authenticity to women. At Lifetime, it’s our time.
Nancy Dubuc is president and general manager of History and Lifetime networks.