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Inside Move: Lifetime front-runners emerge

Insiders buzzing about Blackwell

The candidate pool is narrowing for the top job at Lifetime, soon to be vacated by president-CEO Carole Black.

Insiders already are buzzing that SoapNet topper Deborah Blackwell is the pack’s front-runner — exec is a respected member of the ABC/Disney family and a Hearst Corp. alum to boot. Lifetime is jointly owned by the Walt Disney Co. and Hearst.

Black is leaving when her contract with the women’s cabler expires. Disney ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney is said to be searching for an executive with CEO savvy in addition to programming smarts.

A Harvard Business School and Brown U. grad, Blackwell’s resume includes a six-year stint as head of TV movies/minis at William Morris Agency, where she negotiating deals with all the major broadcast webs. Before that, she developed longform projects as a senior VP at Hearst Entertainment.

Under her guidance, 5-year-old SoapNet has edged the ratings of bigger competing cablers Oxygen and WE: Women’s Entertainment, despite presence in less than 40 million homes. Digital cabler is consistently among the top 10 ad-supported cablers in key women 18-49 demo.

Another exec emerging from the shuffle is 10-year Lifetime vet Lynn Picard. Exec VP-general manager started at the cabler as a senior VP of ad sales and now oversees all of its day-to-day operations.

Also a name that often comes up for top cable jobs is former Lifetime exec Bonnie Hammer. With her new dual duty as head of USA and Sci Fi Channel, however, Hammer seems an unlikely taker.

First priority for the new topper: hiring an entertainment prexy. Spot has been unfilled since Barbara Fisher left in May.

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