Lifetime's Black Says She's Staying

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Lifetime Television president Carole Black claims she's staying put, denying mounting speculation last week that she was leaving for a West Coast corporate post at The Walt Disney Co. and ABC.

"Although it is our policy not to comment on rumors, the story is simply not true," Lifetime senior vice president of public affairs Meredith Wagner said on Black's behalf last week.

As late as last week, cable and advertising industry sources said they'd heard that Black was going to join ABC, possibly to help ABC Television Network president Steve Bornstein to reconfigure ABC Family, Disney's new acquisition.

Such a move would allow Black to return full-time to her beloved Los Angeles, where ABC and Disney are based. Black now divvies up her time between Lifetime's New York headquarters and Los Angeles. She maintains a home on the West Coast, and her son, Eric, who is in his early 30s, works for a Los Angeles production house.

The game plan relayed by one source would have Black — who has led the female-targeted network's triumphant rise to No. 1 in the primetime ratings — replaced by Lifetime executive vice president of advertising sales Lynn Picard.

Lifetime denied the whole scenario.

While some of the scuttlebutt has been about Black's leaving, other sources said that during the past few weeks, she's been involved in serious negotiations for a new contract with Lifetime.

Those talks are nearly finished, and Black is expected to sign a new deal with the network shortly, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Wagner declined to comment on whether Black and the network were engaged in contract talks.

Black, a veteran of Disney's home-video unit and KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, joined Lifetime in March 1999, replacing Doug McCormick. Lifetime is owned by Disney and The Hearst Corp.

Disney — which acquired Fox Family Worldwide for $5.2 billion earlier this year and renamed its Fox Family Channel cable network ABC Family — has publicly said it wants Maureen Smith to stay on as president.

Nonetheless, one source said that Disney is looking for candidates for that post, cast as a general manager position. That executive would be in charge of the network's adult programming. Disney Channel, in large part, would handle its children's fare.

ABC Family's schedule will also include repurposed fare from ABC Television.

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