Lifetime spaces out N.Y. studios

In an aggressive move to snare more of the increasingly lucrative Gotham TV production market, Lifetime Television is expanding its Lifetime Studios to include a new, 3,500 square foot space in its facility at the Kaufman Astoria complex in Queens.

With the explosion of new networks in and around New York City, local production is on the rise and Lifetime wants a piece of this market, estimated at $ 28 million. Some new entrants include FX, Fox’s new cable network; Catalog 1, a Spiegel, Inc./Time Warner Entertainment shopping venture; and a proposed MTV rival also spearheaded by Time Warner.

Stu Lefkowitz, senior veep of network operations and engineering for the cable web, has named Mitchell Brill director of studio operations. Brill most recently oversaw sales and marketing for The Post Group, Disney/MGM Studios’ post-production facility in Orlando, Fla.

Brill believes that production of all kinds in Gotham is making a comeback after the city’s powerful unions caused feature film production companies to boycott New York City in 1980.

The new studio will be Lifetime’s third at Kaufman-Astoria,which is a close commute from Midtown Manhattan.

While NBC, HBO, MTV, BBC, PBS, and others frequently shoot on the Lifetime stages and capitalize on the studios’ proximity to the city, Lifetime has never formally marketed the facilities, Lefkowitz said.

Lifetime Studios programming includes PBS’ “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” and satellite and production services for Showtime’s championship boxing series.

HBO’s special “House of Buggin” with John Leguizamo is hosted from the Lifetime Studios, which, says Brill, is an example of a West Coast-born production with New York talent that needed an East Coast home.

Brill promises a national marketing campaign for the Lifetime endeavor, necessary if it is going to compete with larger area facilites. Kaufman/Astoria comprises two 13,000-sq.-ft. stages and one 26,000-sq.-ft. stage and was home to the long-running “The Cosby Show.” Kaufman has housed PBS’s “Sesame Street” for more than a year. Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, New York is also a major regional presence. It just nabbed production for Q2, a QVC electronic shopping service.

Still, Lifetime parent Hearst/ABC-Viacom Entertainment Services has encouraged Brill to aggressively go after new tenants.

The third multimillion dollar stage was recently acquired and will be up and running on April 22, specifically for Lifetime, which is aggressively creating programming under the eye of newly appointed programming/production veep Peggy Allen.

“Lifetime Magazine,” produced by ABC News; “2 p.m. Live”; and “Our Home,” a co-venture of Lifetime and Viacom, are currently slated for Studio 3.