A little bit of success has new Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong turning up the competitive heat under the network’s staff for 2008.
Shortly after Ms. Wong replaced Betty Cohen in April, Lifetime launched “Army Wives,” which proved to be the most watched original series in the network’s history.
That helped propel Lifetime, which had seen revenues decline in 2006, to finish the year as the top cable network in total day among women 18-49 and women 25-54.
Ms. Wong was busy herself, hitting the ground running. In her short tenure, the network also relaunched Lifetime’s digital efforts with a revamped Web site and hired new executives to fill key posts in departments including marketing and research.
The year ended so well that Ms. Wong gave everyone at the network the week of Christmas off.
“I think everyone’s really energized here. There’s nothing like winning,” she said. “It tends to fire up everyone’s competitive juices.”
Ms. Wong sees her mandate as building on new momentum. She ticks off her list of priorities as “continuing to grow as a top destination for women, continuing to build our digital assets and to grow Lifetime as a brand in the digital space. And continuing to strengthen the brand and bring that energy to it, and bring the optimism and vibrancy.”
Her new marketing team, Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein, formerly with The WB, have many plans for stepping up the network’s branding with a campaign that probably will launch in the second quarter.
In programming, the network is launching a new movie strategy under Lifetime Entertainment President Susanne Daniels and new senior VP for original movies Tanya Lopez.
”Susanne and Tanya are working hard to really energize the movies and bring Lifetime brand-defining events, which I think is exciting,” Ms. Wong said. “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” based on the best seller, airing in March, is the first example of the strategy, she said.
Ms. Wong also is looking to ratchet up the attention paid to Lifetime Movie Network, which has high ratings among women but a low profile.
“I think that is a huge asset for the company that is completely under-maximized right now, and there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to grow it,” she said.
Plans are to have 18 original movies on LMN. The network also is building a big event around its first miniseries, “The Capture of the Green River Killer,” scheduled to air this spring. LMN will be getting more marketing support, including paid media for the first time, as well as cross-promotion.
Ms. Wong still has one big organizational hole to fill, with a vacancy at the top of Lifetime’s ad sales teams since the departure of Lynn Picard in June. “We’re searching for the right person,” said Ms. Wong, adding that the goal for the sales organization was to build partnerships with its advertisers.
Last year Procter & Gamble sponsored “Army Wives,” and Keri Renewal skin cream is on board as sponsor for Lifetime’s new show “How to Look Good Naked.”
Like other cable networks, Lifetime is looking for a bit of a bump from the writers strike.
“It’s a bad thing for the business and it’s a bad thing for everyone, but I would say that Lifetime’s in a relatively good position,” she said. The network is set with original movies for the year because it accelerated its script development process; it has seven reality series ready to launch during the year. But the strike will put the return of “Army Wives” on hold.
“So while we love ‘Army Wives,’ and we can’t wait for it to come back, we will be pretty well positioned to get through the strike,” she said.
AT A GLANCE
Name: Andrea Wong
Title: President and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services
Year of birth: 1966
Place of birth: Northern California
What to watch for: After inheriting a success with “Army Wives,” can Ms. Wong put her stamp on the No. 1 women’s network and bring in more younger viewers with reality shows and big movie events?
Who knew: Ms. Wong got her degree in electrical engineering from MIT.