‘Army Wives’ premiere a ratings hit

Lifetime preparing two more scripted series

“Army Wives” conquered the Nielsen ratings on Sunday, scoring 3.5 million viewers and becoming the most-watched series premiere in Lifetime’s 23-year history.

Susanne Daniels, president of entertainment for Lifetime, said the huge audience for “Army Wives” represents a solid beginning to the network’s strategy of creating a return to Lifetime’s powerhouse Sunday-night lineup of scripted, original series of a few years ago, which featured “The Division” and “Strong Medicine.”

On July 15, when “Army Wives” is well into its initial 13-episode run, Lifetime will premiere two more scripted series: “Side Order of Life,” starring Marisa Coughlan as a magazine photographer re-evaluating her life, and “State of Mind,” with Lili Taylor as a family therapist plagued by her own problems. The shows will run in a three-hour primetime block, starting at 8.

“My mandate is to bring down the median age of Lifetime,” said Daniels, referring to the network’s older skew, which has hurt it in getting the biggest bucks from Madison Avenue.

With “Army Wives,” Lifetime scored its highest time-period rating since January 2004, and its highest women 18-to-34 viewership in the timeslot since May 2002.

As an indication of the buzz surrounding the show, video streaming of the “Army Wives” episode on LifetimeTV.com soared by 94% from Sunday to Monday.

Mark Gordon, Deb Spera, Katherine Fugate and Jeff Melvoin exec produce “Army Wives.” Fugate is also the creator and one of the writers, and Melvoin is the showrunner. And in getting the word out about “Army Wives,” Daniels cited the marketing experts Bob Bibb and Lew Goldstein, who were co-presidents of marketing for the WB.