Lifetime Pursues ‘Really Big Niche’

Nov 10, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Carole Black knows what women watch.
Since becoming president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment in 1999 Ms. Black has attracted enough women to Lifetime to make it the No. 1-rated cable network in prime time for each of the past two years. Not bad, considering “Television for Women,” as Lifetime brands itself, is technically niche programming.
“It’s a really big niche,” Ms. Black said.
Ms. Black has reshaped the network with extensive research into what women want, dumped shows that were “off-brand” and ordered a lot more original programming, especially new dramas.
“The Division” and “Strong Medicine” are signature lifetime hits with empowered female leads, characters the audience can identify with and be inspired by.
But a hit series on Lifetime is more than just “Dragnet” with Jane Friday. The show’s characters must have interesting, developed relationships, Ms. Black said, in addition to what every viewer wants: “Good storytelling. Just good storytelling. It’s very basic.”
Entertainment is just one part of Ms. Black’s plan. Lifetime Entertainment is active in women’s advocacy and provides a steady stream of health and legal information through its programming. The support helps women while strengthening their bond to the network. “Women are appreciative of people who care about them,” Ms. Black said. “Lifetime is a safe place to be.”
Ms. Black said she is not concerned that channels like Oxygen and WE: Women’s Entertainment are now targeting the same market. “When Oxygen started up and all those articles were written about it, what happened was more people came to Lifetime. It was a good thing because it helped build cable.”
Leaving her imitators behind, Ms. Black has her sights set on the general-interest networks, cable and broadcast.
She helped build the Lifetime Movie Network to 40 million households and two years ago launched a third Lifetime channel, Lifetime Real Women, for reality programming.
In addition, Ms. Black launched Lifetime Magazine last April, is developing a Lifetime radio network and helps oversee Lifetime’s popular Web site.
The thrust behind all these ventures will always be television, Ms. Black said. “In a very noisy medium, we will have a clear message. We will continue to listen to women and empower women.”
Carole Black
Job title: President and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services
Date of birth: July 18, 1943
Place of birth: Cincinnati
Length of time in current gig: 41/2 years
Why her? Guided Lifetime Network from No. 6 to the No. 1-ranked cable network in prime time in total households two years in a row; expanded Lifetime Movie Network’s subscriber base from 2 million homes to more than 40 million, making it the second-highest-rated women’s channel behind only Lifetime itself; launched a third network, Lifetime Real Women. Lifetime has won numerous advocacy awards, and most recently received the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Governors Award for its “Stop the Violence” campaign.