SUSANNE DANIELS became Lifetime network's president for entertainment in 2005, after which she brought in the drama "Army Wives," which has gone on to be the highest-rated series in the history of the network. Also on her watch, the reality show "How to Look Good Naked" has been the network's most successful unscripted series.
In programming specifically for women, Lifetime was in some ways a precursor to the new hyper-focused niche marketing.
In general, I would say that . . . is absolutely true. The only thing I might take issue with is that I don't think programming for women -- who are 52% of the population -- is exactly niche programming today. But there's no question that what Lifetime did was establish a powerful brand early on, that brand being programming for women, and that brand really helped the channel to grow and define itself. I think where you see other networks continue to do well are those who are nurturing and growing a specific brand.
The thirtysomething, fortysomething woman today goes online, listens to hip music and doesn't fit housewife stereotypes. How do you keep up with that?
It's not easy to nail that down, tapping into who that woman is. When we developed "Army Wives," we really obsessed over how do we develop a show that keeps our core audience but expands it? We knew we needed to freshen up Lifetime's air. We needed a show that was relevant, but we didn't want to abandon the women who were watching "Golden Girls" loyally in the morning. And we greenlit the project because it seemed like something that could achieve that. And it did.
And what about the Lifetime Movie, which is something of a national punch line for overheated, alarmist melodrama? I imagine it's tough to alter perceptions that it is now more Sigourney Weaver than Tori Spelling.
We're aware of the national punch line -- I've never heard it put that way, but it's true. One of the things we set out as a goal is to say, we have a really phenomenal budget and we have a phenomenal opportunity to make movies that women will love, but make movies we can be proud of and that involve the female creative community. We want to be, for lack of a better way to say it, the HBO for women with our movies. Slowly but surely we're making inroads.
Do guys watch Lifetime?
Twenty-five percent of our audience is male. And men watch "Army Wives," and we know they like it from our official research, but also just from the word on the street and from reading the chat rooms on mylifetime.com.