Lifetime taps new programming chief

JoAnn Alfano replaces Susanne Daniels

Moving to fill the void left by Susanne Daniels’ departure last month, Lifetime has hired longtime NBC development exec JoAnn Alfano as head of programming.

Alfano will remain in L.A. and report to Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong. She brings to the cabler a strong background in scripted development, particularly comedy.

But Alfano’s selection for the gig came as something of a surprise in TV circles Wednesday, as she was not among the many execs rumored to be chasing the sought-after post.

“This is an audience I love to target,” said Alfano, noting the main demo for cable’s top nets for women, Lifetime Television and Lifetime Movie Networks. “I think the shows I’ve developed over the years, series like ‘30 Rock’ and ‘Will & Grace,’ speak to that audience.”

Alfano developed the Emmy-winning “30 Rock” for NBC while serving as president of Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video TV. And during a lengthy development-exec tenure at the Peacock, she also oversaw gestation of comedies including “Will & Grace,” “Scrubs,” “Ed” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and dramas including “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “Providence” and “Profiler.”

Now overseeing scheduling and development for Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network and Lifetime Real Women, Alfano will be programming channels that emphasize nonscripted fare, including series such as “Army Wives” and “Project Runway,” which will move from Bravo to Lifetime in November.

“The basic tenets of scripted and unscripted programming are the same,” she said. “You have to have great people who are compelling to watch, and you have to have great storytelling. With ‘Army Wives’ and ‘Project Runway,’ there couldn’t be a better way to be introduced to the reality business. We’re starting with hits, and we’re going to try to take advantage of that and build on that success.”

Alfano will serve as exec veep of entertainment for Lifetime Networks. She has folded the production company she founded last year, TV Tray Entertainment, and has already punched her first timecards for Lifetime.

Daniels announced her ankling as prexy of entertainment at Lifetime earlier in the year after nearly three years in the post. She formally exited the network last month though she remains a consultant to the network.