Daniels Aims to Draw Guys Lifetime’s Way

Aug 29, 2005  •  Post A Comment

When Susanne Daniels becomes president of entertainment at Lifetime Sept. 12, she will be programming for slightly older females than she did when she was president of entertainment at The WB. But Ms. Daniels doesn’t see that as too big a challenge.

“We developed a lot of shows with very strong female characters,” Ms. Daniels said last week, pointing to “Gilmore Girls” as an example. “At The WB there were more women than men watching the network. I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

At Lifetime she aims to “create shows that women bring men to.”

Not that Lifetime needs a big fix. Despite having its top programming post officially vacant for more than a year, the network’s viewership is up 9 percent in prime time and 10 percent among viewers 18 to 49.

Much of that gain is attributed to strong performances by Lifetime’s Monday movie franchise. The network’s original series are also performing well, including the summer miniseries “Beach Girls.”

Since May 2004 programming duties at the network had been handled by General Manager Rick Haskins. Mr. Haskins couldn’t come to terms with new Lifetime Entertainment Services CEO Betty Cohen and departed in June.

Ms. Daniels’ hiring marks Ms. Cohen’s first major stamp on Lifetime.

Ms. Cohen and Ms. Daniels on occasion worked together when Ms. Cohen was running Cartoon Network and Ms. Daniels was at The WB. “I was a big fan of the work she did,” Ms. Daniels said. When Ms. Cohen came calling a month ago, “I was very interested in meeting with her.”

Ms. Daniels said she’s excited to come to Lifetime because Ms. Cohen “creates an environment where risk-taking is encouraged … you have to take some chances to break out.”

With Lifetime’s movies working well, she said, she doesn’t plan to change that formula. Lifetime also has been looking to move into comedy, and Ms. Daniels sees that as a possibility, “but in the vein of ‘Desperate Housewives’ as a comedy or ‘Ally McBeal’ as a comedy.”

In addition to her duties with the main Lifetime channel, Ms. Daniels will be responsible for programming Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women. While her initial focus is on Lifetime, she expects in time to begin developing “a small amount of original programming” for the other networks.

Since leaving The WB in 2001, Ms. Daniels has had a production company, First Move, affiliated with 20th Century Fox Television. She produced an NBC show, “Hidden Hills,” a movie of the week on The WB, sold another 50 scripts to the networks and produced several other pilots that weren’t picked up.

She’s looking forward to being a buyer again, instead of a seller. “I’m going to be a better buyer now that I’ve been a seller,” she said.