Lopez to head original movies department

As it looks to revamp its longform brand, Lifetime has hired former ICM packaging agent Tanya Lopez to head up its original movies department.

Gig makes Lopez one of the most powerful voices in the increasingly challenged telepic biz. With broadcast nets all but out of the TV movie biz, and most cablers cutting back their movie orders, Lifetime has emerged as one of the biggest remaining major nets still in the longform game.

Lopez replaces Libby Beers, who departed Lifetime at the end of July and now serves as a consultant to the channel. As senior VP of original movies, Lopez will be charged with helping change the mix of movies seen on Lifetime, while also working to grow its sister Lifetime Movie Network.

Also new to the department: Nancy Bennett, who joined earlier this year as VP of original movies (joining fellow vice presidents Arturo Interian and Joey Plager).

Lopez will report to Lifetime Entertainment prexy Susanne Daniels, who said in the summer that she was looking for a movie exec with a financial/dealmaking background. She easily found that in Lopez, who spent nearly two decades packaging and selling movies and minis to broadcast and cable webs.

“I really want Lifetime to continue to be a destination for the industry’s top creative talent, and Tanya is someone who could pursue that talent,” Daniels said. “I was also excited to have somebody with her level of negotiating. The movie deals are getting ever more complicated, and we need somebody who’s a smart, experienced and innovative dealmaker.”

Lopez will handle development and oversight of all original movies for Lifetime and LMN. Daniels is particularly bullish on expanding LMN, which will increase its longform output from 12 to between 18 and 20 telepics next year. LMN is also set to premiere its first-ever original miniseries next spring, “The Search for the Green River Killer.”

“LMN is currently in 60 million homes, and it’s our goal to grow it to be a fully distributed cable channel,” Daniels said.

On the Lifetime side, Daniels said the channel plans to produce fewer low-budget telepics but instead focus its efforts on more high-quality longforms.

“My goal for the Lifetime movie is to change the industry perception from the cliche of it being a women-in-peril piece to that of a prestige movie no less than anything that HBO or Showtime would do.”

Daniels also hopes to work with more female moviemakers, she added.

Meanwhile, Lopez already has good relations with one of Lifetime’s frequent telepic suppliers: She’s married to Stan Brooks, the veteran moviemaker who just snagged an Emmy for the AMC mini “Broken Trail.” (Brooks is coincidentally behind “Green River Killer.”)

Lopez’s credits also include putting together drama and comedy series such as “Life With Bonnie” and “American Family” during her run at ICM, where she worked with talent such as Lauren Graham, Minnie Driver and Calista Flockhart.

The exec also briefly served as VP of drama series at CBS, working on shows such as “American Gothic” and “Nash Bridges.” Lopez launched her career at William Morris.

Bennett joined Lifetime from Mattel Entertainment, where she worked as supervising producer-director of entertainment. While there, she worked on the “American Girl” movie franchise. Before that, she was VP of production for movies and minis at ABC Entertainment.

Bennett has also worked at Disney Telefilms, Cosgrove-Meurer and Green/Epstein Prods. Bennett will report to Lopez.

Lifetime movies recently scored two Emmy noms: “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy” in the TV movie category, and Gena Rowlands (for “What if God Were the Sun?”) in the longform actress competish.

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