The Lifetime Movie Network has been picking up subscribers as hungrily as filmgoers grab fistfuls of popcorn. The seven-year-old channel is available in 43 million cable and satellite homes, up 13% from 38 million a year ago. And its client roster is studded with the names of seven heavyweight cable and satellite operators.
While that success is at least in part due to its very powerful mothership, Lifetime Television, the service also seems to be connecting strongly with viewers. LMN has established itself as the second highest-rated women’s network on TV, behind only big sister Lifetime Television.
According to LMN, Nielsen Media Research reports that the movie channel averaged a 0.7 primetime household rating in 2004, up 17% from a 0.6 rating the year before.
“Our greatest competition is Lifetime,” says Rick Haskins, executive vice president and general manager of LMN’s parent, Lifetime Entertainment Services. “But there’s very little cannibalization between networks.”
Perhaps more significantly for advertisers, LMN increased its viewing among younger women by an even greater margin last year. The network’s ratings rose 25% among women 18 to 49 and 22% among women 18 to 34.
LMN also ranked as the most popular network among digital-cable subscribers in an independent study conducted by Beta Research Corp. last fall. In the study, 24% of adult viewers rated LMN as their favorite digital network. The Biography Channel ranked second with 19%.
Lifetime executives credit much of LMN’s surge to the popularity of its made-for-TV movies. Unlike most cable movie channels, LMN lives or dies by the TV film, running about nine of them for every theatrical release. “We might show three Hollywood movies a week,” Haskins says. “The rest are made-for-TVs.”
It doesn’t hurt that Lifetime Entertainment now churns out 18 original TV movies a year. So, with a library of 150 Lifetime-produced TV movies, LMN can draw on its parent for about 20% of its total product.
Lifetime executives also credit a network redesign carried out five years ago, after Haskins took over as general manager. As part of the makeover, network officials differentiated between dayparts with different color palettes, introduced personal vignettes featuring women viewers and gave promotional time to Hollywood studios to plug new movies and leading actors and actresses. “We made it feel much more like a movie network,” Haskins says.
Now Lifetime officials are toying with the idea of branding different nights of the week with distinct movie genres, such as “Mystery Mondays.” For the first time, they’re also looking at promoting LMN aggressively in other media as they seek to put the network in 50 million homes by the end of the year.