When Betty Cohen joined Lifetime Entertainment Services as president/CEO in April 2005, she spoke about her passion for “developing branded content and related services that entertain, inspire and inform audiences around the world.”
That passion and what Disney Media Networks Co-Chair/Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney describes as her “remarkable ability to identify, understand and get close to audiences” have made Cohen one of cable’s most admired and accomplished marketers and programmers.
From launching cable channels such as Cartoon Network and developing multiplatform services to executive-producing original programming and helping companies with their brand-building efforts, Cohen has made significant contributions in virtually every facet of the industry.
At Lifetime, she oversees day-to-day operations for Lifetime Television, one of the top-rated basic-cable networks; Lifetime Movie Network; Lifetime Real Women; and Lifetime Online, as well as brand extensions, such as Lifetime Home Entertainment, and public-advocacy campaigns. At her first Lifetime advertiser presentation, in March, Cohen and Entertainment President Susanne Daniels took the wraps off a diverse slate of original programming, from comedy series Lovespring and hour drama Angela’s Eyes to reality shows and made-for-TV movies. At that time, Cohen, saying that women are “much different than they were a few short years ago,” also announced the “Lifetime Women’s Pulse Polls” multiplatform research project.
From 1988 to 2002, Cohen held a variety of positions at Turner Broadcasting Systems. Having spearheaded creation of Cartoon Network, she helped it expand, becoming president of Cartoon Network Worldwide in July 1994. She also oversaw formation of the CartoonNetwork.com Website and the Cartoon Network Studios production facility in Burbank, Calif. Cartoon expanded into Europe, Latin America, Asia/Pacific and Japan and, under Cohen, developed its clever “Adult Swim” extension and launched Boomerang channel. She also headed up the Turner Learning educational-services initiative.
In June 2001, Cohen’s marketing and merchandising efforts for Cartoon Network original series The Powerpuff Girls earned “License of the Year” and “Entertainment License of the Year” awards from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association.
Through the years, Cohen’s work has garnered many honors, from the Promax/BDA Pinnacle Award and the Promax International Marketer of the Year to the NCTA Vanguard Award and Multichannel News Global Programming Award.
Before launching Cartoon Network, Cohen was senior VP/general manager of Turner Network Television from July 1990 to December 1991. She grew into a top-flight executive by mastering the promotions side of the business. After all, when she joined TNT in 1988, she had spent four years as director of on-air promotion and interstitial programming for Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite. Between 1982 and 1984, Cohen worked as a writer-producer of on-air promotion for Cable Health Network and became managing senior producer of on-air promotion for Lifetime Television in what was, almost literally, a different Lifetime. She began her career in 1977 as a broadcast producer for Public Media Center in San Francisco.
Just prior to joining Lifetime, Cohen was president of Betty Cohen Media Consulting LLC, which she founded in September 2002. There, she developed multiplatform programs and services targeting 16- to 30-year-olds and also consulted for other companies.
Cohen serves on the board of trustees for American Women in Radio and Television and takes her role as the head of a women’s cable network to heart.
“With the explosion in new media, it’s no longer enough to be just a television network,” she says. “In particular, women are increasingly embracing new technology, from games to wireless. The whole spectrum has become something like the California Gold Rush, and, to survive and thrive, you must be an integrated electronic-media company.”
But, while she sees digital media as “a potent marketing tool with great business opportunities driven by increasing 'viewer-in-control’ usage habits,” Cohen believes that, “at the end of the day, compelling content, not technology, determines your success across any platforms you envision.”