Lifetime, in Search of Makeover, Lures Klum, Gunn and Gays

The programming at Lifetime has undeniably been changing over the past few years, largely thanks to the efforts of Susanne Daniels, who was named president of entertainment at Lifetime in August 2005, and Andrea Wong, who was named president and CEO of Lifetime in April 2007.

“I think five years ago, the Lifetime audience had shrunk, and down to a narrow core that was less affluent, with more free time on their hands,” said Ms. Daniels. “They were the kind of people who would watch our movies back-to-back. That was the only kind of viewer we had.” Today, there’s something a little Tracy Flick-ish about Lifetime; several executives gave me the same talking points about how Lifetime is in more households than Bravo, has more viewers with four-plus years of college education, and has a higher female viewership. (Uh, we get it!) “We’re working toward making the brand cool, one way or another,” said Ms. Daniels.

The question, then, is whether this new formula—higher-quality movies, original programming (à la Army Wives) and reality television (Lifetime was quick to announce the development of two spinoffs of Project Runway) will work. If Lifetime keeps moving in the direction it’s headed, then its chances
seem good. But the question of whether the gay audience will keep watching is a tricky one.

“We would love for them to watch [Project Runway] on Lifetime, too!” said Meredith Wagner, Lifetime’s executive vice president of public affairs and corporate communications. “Our door is open. As I said, we’re inclusive. And we want them. We hope they’ll come! The show’s not going to change.” That being said, it’s hard not to feel like gay men are being treated like fag hags—they’re an accessory in the new Lifetime, around for camp value and being able to tell you if your butt looks big, but with no programming revolving around them.

“We really love women,” said Ms. Wagner. “And we care about women. We put them first.”