Lifetime sets original course

The Lifetime cable network will embark on a major expansion of its firstrun programming in 1994, starting with a weekly one-hour “Lifetime Magazine” produced by ABC News to kick off early next year.

Spearheading the drive will be Peggy Allen, who has resigned as director of program development for Hearst Broadcasting Prods. to become VP of produced programming and production for Lifetime, a new title.

Judy Girard, senior VP of programming and production for Lifetime, says, “I’d love to be all-original in two years.”

Among the programs on Lifetime’s drawing board are a Sunday-at-8-p.m. showcase for new made-for-cable movies and informational and entertainment specials, a talkshow on women’s issues that could go out live at 11 every weeknight, a daytime talkshow on tape that would be host-driven, one or more weekly topical magazine series, a documentary series and yearlong on-air public-service campaigns dealing with matters of concern to women.

“Lifetime Magazine,” which is a working title, will be “the first series of its kind to explicitly target women’s issues,” the network says. It will run Sunday at 10 p.m., starting Jan. 2, 1994.

The network will begin to phase in the other proposed firstrun series throughout 1994 and 1995. Although Lifetime will continue to look for rerun series like “Unsolved Mysteries” and “L.A. Law,” which have chalked up solid Nielsens for the network, Girard says she doesn’t have a lot of faith that the broadcast networks will continue to schedule series that would be appropriate for Lifetime’s target audience of women 18 to 49. “The networks’ lineups are not loaded with shows like ‘Sisters,’ ” she says, referring to the Lorimar-produced comedy-drama (NBC, Saturday at 10) that Lifetime has bought for rerun stripping, starting in January.

A further drawback to relying on off-network product is that “we get to pick only from the shows that the distributors know won’t make a lot of money in syndication,” according to Girard.

By contrast, fresh talkshows and magazine shows, says Meredith Wagner, senior VP of public affairs for Lifetime, “will give us a forum to discuss major news events like the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings and the withdrawal of Zoe Baird’s nomination for attorney general.”

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