GM ankles Lifetime

Haskins closes out six-year run at cabler

Lifetime’s Rick Haskins is ankling his post as executive vice president/GM at the end of July.

Haskins, who has spent six years at the women’s cabler, most recently led a gradual ratings resurgence via a slate of strong original movies and a lower-budget Monday made-for franchise.

Insiders say Haskins, who was close to former Lifetime topper Carole Black, had been angling for the chief exec job after Black announced she was resigning last winter. That position, however, went to Betty Cohen, founder of Cartoon Network and professional pal of Walt Disney Co. co-chair/Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney (Daily Variety, April 1).

Sources familiar with the matter say Haskins was offered the entertainment prexy post last held by Barbara Fisher, who left in May 2004, but declined when both parties couldn’t come to terms. Other insiders suggest that Lifetime was uncomfortable with Haskins in the lead programming role, as most of his experience is on the marketing and branding side.

Heavyweight slate

Haskins, however, has been responsible for Lifetime’s development over the past year in Fisher’s absence. He helped put together a slate that boasts projects from such heavyweights as Gale Anne Hurd, Jon Avnet, David Janollari, John Tinker and Bruce Willis’ Cheyenne Prods.

Still, insiders say the cabler is about to embark in a different creative direction — a rebranding effort will be up for debate next month — and Haskins’ projects may not have fit the bill.

Lifetime hasn’t launched a series since August 2003, when it premiered “1-800-Missing” and “Wild Card.” Latter was canceled after two seasons, along with long-running hit “The Division,” leaving the net with just two original skeins, “Missing” and “Strong Medicine.” A pair of pilots commissioned in late 2003 and delivered early last year — “The Coven” and “Class Actions” — also failed to receive pickups.

Those outside Lifetime who worked with Haskins credit him with doing the heavy lifting in the absence of a programming head.

“During a year where there’s been no direction, Rick’s the guy you called,” one source said. “They were sort of a rudderless company, and he was empowered and made decisions, and that was really refreshing.”

Telepic producer and major Lifetime supplier Robert Greenwald (“Beach Girls”) described the exec as “very involved creatively, and I enjoyed dealing with him.”

A rep for Lifetime said a search for Haskins’ replacement is under way.

Ratings boost

In a statement, Lifetime said, “Since joining the company six years ago, Rick has made enormous contributions to the brand, from overseeing innovative marketing campaigns and his oversight of the programming department — sparking eight consecutive months of ratings increases — to the many brand extensions he’s helped launch, most recently Lifetime Radio for Women and Lifetime Home Entertainment.”

Haskins released the following statement: “For the past six years, I have had the sheer joy of working with an outstanding team of dedicated and talented people. It’s been a wonderful and exhilarating ride, and I’m very proud of all I’ve accomplished.”

He shared the exec VP-GM title with Lynn Picard, who heads up sales and is still with the cabler.

Haskins joined Lifetime as exec VP, Lifetime Brand, in 1999. Before that, he founded the Haskins Group, an independent business and marketing consulting firm, and held several positions within Disney, including director of development, VP of marketing for Buena Vista TV.

(John Dempsey in New York contributed to this report.)

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