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Can't stop to cheer now

Lifetime chief Andrea Wong has designs on more than just 'Project Runway.' She plans on reshaping the network.

April 15, 2008|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

When she arrived at Lifetime last April, Wong said, she was delighted to find that she and entertainment president Susanne Daniels "have almost exactly the same taste."

One of her first acts as chief executive was to order up a major marketing campaign for the Kim Delaney drama "Army Wives." The show went on to be the most successful original series in Lifetime history.

Still, overall viewership remained flat in 2007, with the network averaging about 1.5 million viewers in prime time. But female viewers ages 18 to 34 spiked by 14%, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Both Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network have notched ratings milestones in the last year. LMN's "The Capture of the Green River Killer" was its most-watched program ever. "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" drew 5.8 million viewers Saturday, Lifetime's most-watched movie in 13 years.

Wong is now trying to build on those successes. On Monday, the network unveiled seven drama projects under consideration to pair with "Army Wives," which returns June 8. Among them is "Drop Dead Diva," created by "CSI's" Josh Berman, about a spoiled actress who dies and is reincarnated in the body of a schlumpy lawyer.

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New comedies

Three comedy projects are in the works, including single mom tale "Burnt Toast," based on the book by Teri Hatcher. And the network is developing cooking and dating reality shows to pair with "Project Runway" and "How to Look Good Naked," a makeover show hosted by "Queer Eye's" Carson Kressley.

Wong is especially focused on Lifetime's signature movies. In an effort to upgrade the quality, she has spent much of the last year personally lobbying producers who usually would not think to bring their projects to the cable channel. Upcoming films feature Shirley MacLaine as Coco Chanel and Kelly Preston in "The Tenth Circle," based on the Jodi Picoult novel. And the network will be the first to adapt the novels of bestselling crime author Patricia Cornwell; two of her books are being made into movies for 2009.

"We're really trying to be a first stop for filmmakers and talent, and to be in the same sentence as Showtime and HBO," Wong said. "We're the biggest game in town when it comes to TV movies, so we should be that destination."

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matea.gold@latimes.com

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