LIFETIME'S PRIZE DEMO DRAWS HIGH-POWERED COMPETITION: OXYGEN, TURNER CAST EYES ON HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR SALES

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The buzz, as pictured on a recent cover of Forbes, is Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey, Marcy Carsey.

The reality, deserving of a cover on Fortune, is Carole Black, Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff and Lynn Picard.

Who?

Ms. Black is the recently appointed president-CEO of Lifetime Television, who moves over from a successful tenure running NBC's flagship TV station in Los Angeles. Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff is Lifetime's senior VP-programming and production, and Ms. Picard is the network's senior VP-advertising sales.

While Ms. Laybourne, Ms. Winfrey and Ms. Carsey are planning next year's launch of Oxygen Media's competitor to Lifetime, the incumbents racked up record profits last year-in the $200 million range-on record revenues of close to $500 million.

Though advertisers and their agencies welcome media competition-it can only drive costs down-a number of those executives say the good news is that Lifetime works.

"They've done a good job growing their brand," says Tim Spangler, senior VP-general manager of national broadcast, Western Initiative Media, Los Angeles.

Lifetime's "very focused on content and who it's directed to," adds Jerry Solomon, president of national broadcast for SFM Media, New York.

MISSES THE POINT

One male agency executive confesses he doesn't get the network. "Excuse me, but aren't women the primary target of prime time on networks named ABC, CBS and NBC? You need a cable channel for that?"

Yes and yes.

While many broadcast network shows target women, the programming isn't that focused.

Indeed, Lifetime's ratings have been growing among its target demographic. Available in more than 73 million homes, the network branding itself "television for women" was the highest-rated ad-supported basic cable service in the marketer-coveted category of women 18-49 years old during prime time and total day during the first quarter.

The category is so hot that not only is Oxygen planning to compete with Lifetime, but Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System also is deciding whether to launch a channel targeting women.

Indeed, Gerald Levin, Time Warner chairman-CEO, told reporters recently that if one looked at the number of Time Inc. publications that are targeted to women, plus the "executive female firepower" in the company, it "wouldn't be surprising" if Time Warner started a women's network.

One of the highlights of Lifetime's prime-time schedule is the acclaimed drama "Any Day Now," starring Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint as two childhood friends from disparate backgrounds who grew up in Alabama in the '60s and become reacquainted as adults.

"Many of the shows on TV aren't as realistic as our lives are. Women's roles and men's roles, in life, are changing rapidly, and we didn't think that was reflected on television," says Ms. Tarnofsky-Ostroff, a former Fox programming executive.

Clearly one of the rapid changes is the evolution of the Internet. The Oxygen manifesto on the company's Website (www.oxygen.com), says, "we will rocket ahead of the TV networks of the past and create their successor, the Internetwork of the future."

WEB CONNECTION

Led by Brian Donlon, VP-sports, new media and public affairs, Lifetime has created a potent Website of its own (www.lifetimetv.com). It addresses a number of issues of special interest to women, including health, community, parenting and chat.

"We plan to ramp up what we do on the Net," Mr. Donlon says. Look for the site to become even more interactive with Lifetime programming.

"Today, 46% of Internet users are women," Ms. Black claims. "Women come to the Internet for information. So coming to a source for information that they trust, such as Lifetime, will become more and more valuable."

Women's involvement in sports is another area Lifetime wants to own. According to Mr. Solomon, a sports buying expert, "The caliber of their sports is excellent, especially the WNBA."

Lifetime's success is reflected on the ad side as well. "A lot of products and service [marketers that] traditionally [target] men are finally recognizing what we've been telling them: that women are primary purchasers," says Ms. Picard.

Much of Lifetime's current success is clearly due to the leadership of Doug McCormick, who left as president-CEO at the end of last year.

Mr. McCormick is justifibly proud of his work. "We wanted to be responsive to issues women wanted to see [such as] our activism around finding a cure for

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