Wong: Lifetime Programs Resonate

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Beverly Hills, Calif.
— Women who help other women are helping Lifetime Television move in the right direction in the ratings, the network’s new CEO said last week.

Andrea Wong, who has been head of Lifetime for the past two months, said that the network is making strides with shows like Army Wives, achieving a more upbeat and empowering tone in its programming for women.

Army Wives, which has been Lifetime’s biggest hit ever, resonates with females because it’s about women supporting each other, the ex-ABC reality-show guru said. That’s a far cry from the old Lifetime, whose trademark was weepy women-in-peril movies.

In its first six weeks, the show has been the most-watched program on Sunday nights among 25-to-54-year-old women, and the most-watched program overall in Lifetime’s history, the network iterated last week.

“My hope is to infuse the Lifetime brand with an energy, a vibrancy, a relevance and an optimism,” Wong said during a Lifetime panel at the Television Critics Association tour here last week.

Wong addressed the nation’s TV writers for the first time as head of the women’s network, which unveiled some of its upcoming plans, including the renewal of Army Wives. Lifetime is also launching a block of reality programming on Fridays and has big plans for next year’s presidential election, the network’s new CEO said.

In an interview at the TCA press tour, Wong said how women support women will be an ongoing centerpiece of Lifetime’s approach to programming and its audience. She also wants the network to be empowering to women and embody optimism.

“You will see this perspective cascaded through our series and our movies. You’ll see it reflected in the relaunch of lifetimetv.com, and across all our digital offerings, and you’ll see it in our public advocacy campaign,” she told the writers.

For example, she said Lifetime’s veteran “Every Woman Counts” voting campaign will take full advantage of the opportunity next year’s presidential race presents. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is a candidate in that race.

“The intention is to really build a campaign with on-air programming, PSAs, involvement in the conventions, a number of things,” Wong said. “Certainly with a female presidential candidate, there’s an even deeper importance for women for the presidential campaign, and Lifetime should be there and will be there.”

Lifetime is facing its next test, the results of a big gamble. This past Sunday, July 15, it debuted two new dramas, Side Order of Life and State of Mind, which will air along with Army Wives on Sundays. Both feature stories about women whose relationships with men break up; and how friends and co-workers provide support as they pursue lasting love. The shows will have to stand up on their own. But they’re getting solid launch pads by appearing on the same night as Army Wives.

Lifetime is so upbeat about Army Wives that the second-season order from Mark Gordon Productions and ABC Studios is for 18 episodes, not the usual 13. They will premiere in spring next year.

“We just have a tremendous belief in the show,” Wong said.

While the development of Army Wives preceded her, Wong said she and Susanne Daniels, Lifetime’s president of entertainment, are on the same page from the start. “Susanne and her team are terrific, and I feel very fortunate to have come to this network with them already deep in development,” Wong said. “We very much see eye to eye where we want to go.”

Daniels’ plans include launching a Friday-night block of reality programming Oct. 12, anchored by the second season of Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead. That block will also include the new reality competition series America’s Psychic Challenge.

Women in general “have an enormous interest in psychics,” whether they believe in them or are skeptical, according to Wong.

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