'Exhilarating’ Start for Lifetime Chief

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Seven months into her position as CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, Andrea Wong has settled in and is steering the women’s-targeted network forward. Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead sat down with Wong to talk about her experience so far and her future plans for the network.

MCN: After seven months at the top spot of Lifetime, have you been able to check off many “things to do” points that you had written down when you first started?

Andrea Wong: Certainly, when I started I had no head of marketing, so that was the first thing I was able to check off the list. It’s really about evolving and building the team, and I think we’re almost done. [Co-chief marketing officers] Bob [Bibb] and Lew [Goldstein] were a key check off the list.

MCN: Overall, how would you characterize your first seven months at Lifetime?

AW: They’ve been exhilarating and really fun. To a certain extent, there have been some challenges, but I would say just enormously gratifying.

MCN: It certainly helps to have a big hit which Lifetime had this year with Army Wives. Were you expecting that big of a hit and that great of a performance from that show?

AW: I consider myself very fortunate because I came in a month before it launched, but it was the wind behind our backs to push us forward and to give us momentum. The thing about Army Wives is that it’s indicative of our next generation of programming. It’s a very high-quality show, it’s very broad and very inclusive to women — it has multiple entry points [and] it’s great storytelling.

MCN: How important is digital in reaching out and broadening the audience?

AW: I think growing our brand in the digital space is critical to our future, and something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Look, as I said we want to be the leading destination for women for entertainment, for escape, for advocacy on whatever platform they come to. Whether it’s linear television, or online or mobile or anywhere else, the Lifetime brand strives to be the destination for women wherever they want content.

MCN: The advocacy side of the business has been a big play for Lifetime over the years. How important is that area of the business for you?

AW: It’s very important. I think women expect it from our brand and we need to continue to deliver on it. One of my focuses is to try to focus all of our efforts to make them have a larger impact. In the past we’ve done a lot of great things, but after time because the marketplace is so cluttered it’s harder to stand out with 10 or eight initiatives. So we’ve been talking about focusing on one [initiative] a year and throwing the kitchen sink at it and make it work. And so “Every Woman Counts” is 2008 and let’s make it work as hard as it can and be as effective and impactful as possible.

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