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Lifetime Dips Toes in Web With iTunes

Dec 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Lifetime plans to start selling four series and 12 movies on iTunes this week, getting its shows on the Web ahead of next year’s planned launch of an online streaming project .

Lifetime enters the iTunes fray well after many other networks did so, but executives at the women’s network are banking on a late but counterintuitive approach to make the most of digital downloading of their programs.

Most networks offer current series on iTunes to drive additional viewership for their shows by offering a way for viewers to keep up on story lines or sample programs on their own time. The inaugural quartet of series Lifetime will offer are not currently on the air. They are: “Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead” and “Off the Leash,” which just finished their first season this fall; “Cheerleader Nation,” a one-off series from the spring; and “Lovespring International,” which wasn’t renewed in September due to low ratings.

Those shows did attract new viewers to the network as well as younger viewers who use iTunes, according to Lifetime Executive VP of Digital Media and Business Development Dan Suratt, who is largely responsible for Lifetime’s iTunes strategy. By offering shows on iTunes that hit the 18 to 34 sweet spot, he’s betting that Lifetime can then draw them over to the television.

“This is the stuff that will resonate and acclimate them to the Lifetime brand in a different way and drive them back to the network,” Mr. Suratt said.

About 40 percent of iTunes movie and TV show buyers are women 18 to 49, said Kaan Yigit, analyst with Solutions Research Group in Toronto.

“We will see more and more beyond-linear-content plays like this in the next year for shows that create some momentum but perhaps not sufficient for linear,” Mr. Yigit said. “For the content owner, it’s a no-brainer way to extend reach.”

Lifetime was slow to adopt a new media strategy until CEO Betty Cohen joined in 2005 and then brought Mr. Suratt on board earlier this year. Mr. Suratt shepherded the rollout of Lifetime content on video-on-demand in September.

Feedback from VOD has helped inform the network’s iTunes strategy. For instance, “Cheerleader Nation” was selected for iTunes in part because it was one of Lifetime’s most popular series on VOD.

Lifetime will promote the iTunes fare on its Web site, which last month doubled its unique visitors to 2.9 million, according to Lifetime, with the addition of a new gaming section to the site and regular online chats with Lisa Williams.

Lifetime movies on iTunes will include “Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story,” “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” and “The Dive From Clausen’s Pier.” Lifetime said its movies are the first made-for-TV films on iTunes.

Lifetime plans to introduce additional shows to iTunes over time.