Daniels eyes top position at femme net

Former WB Entertainment prexy Susanne Daniels — who helped make the Frog a destination for young women — is in line to dust off those skills at Lifetime.

Daniels is negotiating with the women’s cabler for the top programming job, which has been vacant for the past 15 months. No deal is yet in place, but exec is said to be in the final stages of talks.

A Lifetime rep declined comment.

Cabler prexy-CEO Betty Cohen, who landed the No. 1 seat at the network in April, has been leading an aggressive search for an entertainment topper since her arrival. Cohen founded and oversaw Cartoon Network, then spent several years consulting on brand building and multiplatform programming before getting plucked for the Lifetime gig.

Exec VP-general manager Rick Haskins had been shepherding series development in the interim — previous entertainment chief Barbara Fisher vacated in May 2004 — but left in June (Daily Variety, June 24), when he couldn’t reach a deal with Lifetime to extend his contract.

Hiring Daniels, who had been instrumental in the launch of femme-powered WB hits “Dawson’s Creek,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Felicity,” makes sense for Lifetime, which has been trending younger over the past several months via reality series and original movies toplined by younger stars. Most recently, those included “The Dive From Clausen’s Pier,” starring “Buffy” alum Michelle Trachtenberg, and “Mom at Sixteen,” featuring Danielle Panabaker.

Longform senior VP Trevor Walton will continue to oversee the cabler’s movies and miniseries.

Under Cohen, Lifetime is rethinking its positioning, tinkering with several rebranding initiatives that aim to re-energize the channel. Before ankling, Haskins had put several comedy projects into the development pipeline, but the cabler is now said to be focusing exclusively on one-hour dramas.

Priority for new programming chief will be to develop and launch the next generation of dramas for Lifetime, which hasn’t launched a scripted series since August 2003. Remaining originals “Missing” and “Strong Medicine” continue to generate solid numbers, but net’s Monday night movie franchise and monthly prestige pics have been the cabler’s real saving grace in the ratings.

Daniels previously headed up her own 20th Century Fox TV-based production shingle, First Move Television (formerly Primarily Entertainment), where she worked on “Hidden Hills” for NBC and “The Lone Ranger” for the WB. While with the WB, she oversaw development of long-running skeins “7th Heaven” and “Gilmore Girls.”

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