Picard: Future Lies in Multiplatforms

Dec 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Lifetime Entertainment Services is plunging into the digital world and has named Lynn Picard executive VP for interactive entertainment.

“We are going to be getting into the business of creating original content for broadband,” said Ms. Picard, who retains her title as general manger of Lifetime Television Network. She has also been promoted to president of advertising sales for Lifetime Entertainment Services, which means she’s responsible for the revenue being generated by Lifetime on all its platforms.

“Everything we do is going to have a cross-platform business model,” said Ms. Picard, who will look at broadband, wireless, interactive and gaming opportunities. “I don’t think we’re alone in that. That’s where the world is going. That’s where the advertisers want to go too.”

Lifetime already offers multiple platforms. Its Lifetime Movie Network is the No. 2 network among women, according to Nielsen Media Research. It also has the digital network, Lifetime Real Women, with 13 million subscribers. “We’re figuring out where that’s headed,” Ms. Picard said.

The appointment of Ms. Picard is the latest by Betty Cohen, who was named CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services in April. Ms. Cohen in August hired Susanne Daniels as head of programming and is still looking for a head of marketing.

Ms. Cohen appears to be moving to make the Lifetime brand appeal to younger women and is reaching into women’s lives away from TV and through new technologies.

“For Lifetime, having such a strong brand connection with our viewers and with women, they expect us to lead them there, too,” she said, adding that viewers have sent e-mails asking the network to recommend phones so they could download “Golden Girls” ring tones.

Ms. Picard noted that Ms. Cohen comes from a children’s programming background at Cartoon Network, and that kids are among the first to adopt new technologies. “She’s definitely supportive and a leader in this area,” Ms. Picard said.

Lifetime is hardly the only media company looking to seize interactive opportunities.

“All of the cable networks are trying to go after broadband in a big way, but with the exception of a handful-notably ESPN-the revenue has been fairly nominal,” said Derek Baine, an analyst at Kagan Media Research.

While in the transition from former CEO Carole Black to Ms. Cohen, Lifetime has been performing admirably. So far this year Lifetime’s ratings have been up 4 percent among total viewers and 2 percent among adults 18 to 49.

Kagan projects that the Lifetime Network’s cash flow will rise to $299 million in 2005 from $243 million in 2004, with a cash flow margin of 36.7 percent. Next year, Kagan estimates Lifetime will generate $568 million in cash flow, but because of higher programming expenses, cash flow margins will slip to 36.2 percent.

Ms. Picard said digital will generate “some decent revenue” by the end of 2006 and in 2007 “it ramps up a lot bigger.”

Lifetime already has an online group, and those people will be incorporated into the interactive division. “We’ll definitely be adding some people to the group,” she said, estimating that there will be a total of 20 to 25 people involved.

Ms. Picard said broadband programming strategies were being developed. Specifics

will be announced at the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers in March.

Programming is also being developed for mobile, including a horoscope offering, she said.

Lifetime is also getting into the development of original games. “Gaming isn’t just for young women,” she said, pointing to a statistic that 52 percent of online gamers are women and that Lifetime viewers index even higher than average. Lifetime’s executive in charge of games, Kris Soumas, last week was at a Korean gaming conference to look for new game concepts, Ms. Picard said.

Lifetime’s Web site now carries some original video linked to its shows and some games.

Ms. Picard joined Lifetime from ESPN Networks as senior VP of advertising sales. She was named executive VP of sales for Lifetime Entertainment Services in 1999 and general manger of Lifetime Television in 2003. Since she was put in charge of ad sales, revenues have more than tripled.