The Player: Lifetime Networks
The Date: April 21, 2009
The Venue: The Hearst Building, New York
Key Execs: Andrea Wong, president-CEO; Debbie Richman, exec VP-ad sales; JoAnn Alfano, exec VP-entertainment; David DeSocio, senior VP, Lifetime partnerships
The Special Guests: "Georgia O'Keeffe" stars Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons; "Project Runway" executive producer Bob Weinstein, co-host Tim Gunn and fashion judge Nina Garcia
The Food: A three-course lunch consisting of a mixed-green salad with goat cheese, grilled chicken and a chocolate opera cake
The Drinks: White wine was sipped by a few guests, but most were mindful of their consumption lest they snap into a wine-induced food coma halfway through the workday.
The Swag: Two books based on upcoming Lifetime programming: "Cook Yourself Thin," a healthy-eating series premiering next month, and Gigi Levangie Grazer's "Maneater," soon to become a miniseries starring "Scrubs"' Sarah Chalke, which will premiere May 30.
The Pitch: Now that Lifetime has finally won the rights to "Project Runway" after a yearlong lawsuit between NBC Universal and the Weinstein Co., fans will have to wait just a little bit longer to catch the already-completed sixth season. "Runway" will make its debut on the network Aug. 20, along with a sister series, "Models of the Runway," which will simultaneously document the lives of the designers' models and their own quest to achieve fashion fame. "Runway" will return with a new lineup of integrated sponsors: editorial partner Marie Claire, returning makeup sponsor and new hair-care sponsor Garnier, and returning retail partner Macy's.
So why the summer-long wait for a show that's been wrapped since February? "Since it's new to the network, we needed time to ramp it up and launch it," said JoAnn Alfano, Lifetime's exec VP-entertainment. "The end of summer was a time we feel we can get some momentum behind it, and also sync up with the launch of cycle seven, which is already casting."
Until "Runway" premieres, Lifetime will be busy rolling out a new slate of comedies, dramas and reality series seeking to broaden its brand beyond the women-in-peril and "Army Wives" dramas that make up its core. "Cook Yourself Thin" is a new entrant into the health-and-fitness category, following "Diet Tribe," a "Biggest Loser"-esque series that premiered earlier this year and will return for a second season. July 12 brings the premiere of "Drop Dead Diva," a comedic drama that's equal parts "13 Going on 30" and "Shallow Hal." Ms. Alfano also has three other comedy pilots in development, with stars such as Cybill Shepherd, Valerie Bertinelli and "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd.
"The theme is they're all female-centric shows, but we want to broaden the brand, as specific as it sounds," Ms. Alfano said. "Our point-of-view is very specific, so we put everything through a filter. Is it an escape for our audience? Is it relatable? We're not terribly snarky, so that doesn't really fit our brand."
But all the scripted development hasn't prevented Lifetime's focus on its trademark original movies, with 10 slated for Lifetime Network, including "Maneater," a miniseries sponsored by Unilever's Vaseline Aloe Fresh; "Acceptance," starring Joan Cusack; and "Georgia O'Keeffe," starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. There are 12 more new movies in pre- or postproduction for Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime's sister network, which is in 70 million homes and scored its highest-rated movie premiere with the controversial "Natalee Holloway Story."