LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- After three and a half years delivering record ratings and ad sales growth for the History Channel, the network's president-general manager, Nancy Dubuc, is being tapped by A&E Networks to do the same for sibling network Lifetime. Ms. Dubuc is adding Lifetime to her portfolio to become president-general manager of both networks, an appointment announced by AETN CEO Abbe Raven.
It was Ms. Raven who told Ad Age earlier this month of her plans to put Lifetime back on top among cable prime time the way A&E and History have in recent years. "Lifetime remains so committed to its core audience, and it has been a top-tier brand for years," Ms. Raven said then. "It was No. 1 for many years on television, and it has that potential to be that one again."
These days, Lifetime is among the lower ranks of cable's upper-tier players, finishing the first quarter of 2010 as the 15th most-watched cable network among adults 18 to 49, while History ranked No. 7 and A&E ranked No. 5, according to Nielsen.
Ms. Dubuc assumes duties that had been handled by outgoing Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong, who tried to make the network younger by bringing in a slate of new scripted dramas and sitcoms, reality shows and the mother lode of female-targeted reality TV, "Project Runway." With the exception of sleeper summer hit "Drop Dead Diva" and the inherited hit "Army Wives," none of those programming moves could be considered major successes. The seventh season of "Runway," for example, often rated lower than the average audiences than it did during its five seasons on Bravo.
Finding gold again
A&E Networks hopes Ms. Dubuc's strong relationships among the Hollywood production community could help her achieve the same growth for Lifetime that History has experienced.
The challenge for Lifetime -- to expand its audience beyond the older movie-of-the-week crowd -- remains a major one. Ms. Dubuc's biggest triumphs at History were also some of the network's most off-brand programs, such as "Ice Road Truckers," "Ax Men" and "Pawn Stars," modern-day reality shows with tenuous connections to history.
"Brands need to evolve to survive," she recently told Ad Age, discussing History's brand evolution. "I think our evolution is not to [avoid] those [core] subjects, it's to complement those subjects with more types of programming."
History's rising cache among the ad community could also benefit Lifetime. Ms. Dubuc oversaw History's biggest sponsorship deal to date, Bank of America's branded-entertainment partnership for "America: The Story of Us," which last weekend became History's highest-rated special ever, drawing 5.7 million viewers.