Brand builders to Lifetime

Veteran team a 'coup' for Wong

In her first major hire since becoming president and CEO of Lifetime Networks in April, Andrea Wong has tapped highly respected marketing gurus Bob Bibb and Lewis Goldstein, who helped launch Fox and WB Network, as co-chief marketing officers.

Meanwhile, Lifetime is relocating its scheduling department from New York to Los Angeles. As a result, Leslie Chesloff, senior vp planning, scheduling and acquisitions, is departing the network.

For Bibb and Goldstein, an executive team for more than 20 years, this marks their first full-time gig since the end of the WB, where they served as co-presidents of marketing.

The two most recently worked as consultants for Lifetime. They were brought over to the cable network by Lifetime entertainment president Susanne Daniels, a longtime friend and former colleague of Bibb and Goldstein from her tenure at the WB, where she held several high-level programming posts, including entertainment president.

Bibb and Goldstein spearheaded the launches of Lifetime's three new drama series this summer: "Army Wives" — which ranks as the network's most-watched series ever and recently was picked up for a second season — as well as "Side Order of Life" and "State of Mind."

Bibb and Goldstein will be based in Los Angeles. This marks a change for the head of marketing position, which had been New York-based. Finding a new marketing chief to replace Martha Pease, who exited her role as executive vp marketing in March after slightly more than a year in the position, had been a priority of Wong's since joining the company (HR 4/27).

"This is a huge coup for Lifetime," said Wong, to whom Bibb and Goldstein will report. "From their remarkable careers spanning the startup of two young-adult networks — Fox and the WB — Bob and Lew have become synonymous with innovative marketing techniques. I am confident that these two consummate team players, with their creative vision and outstanding record of success in marketing to women, will strengthen the Lifetime brand by making it more vibrant, contemporary and empowering."

Bibb and Goldstein first partnered more than 20 years ago at NBC, where Bibb was director of special projects, movies and miniseries promotions and Goldstein was director of special projects and comedy series promotion.

In 1986, they joined News Corp., becoming the first creative marketing heads of Fox. Eight years later, they were recruited to help develop and launch the WB.

Bibb and Goldstein were approached by Lifetime about making their gig there permanent in early July, shortly after the premieres of "Order" and "Mind." Goldstein noted that they originally had no intention of joining a network full time.

"We were having a good time consulting for many differently clients, (but) this is another great new challenge for us," he said. "I was happy to see that the brand is still very strong, that there were people out there who were not necessarily watching Lifetime presently but were waiting for an excuse to come back."

The duo added that they immediately hit it off with Wong and were happy to be rejoining Daniels, with whom they headed the launch of such WB series as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dawson's Creek," "Felicity," "Gilmore Girls" and "Smallville."

At Lifetime, they will next work on such upcoming unscripted series as "America's Psychic Challenge," which debuts in October, and "How to Look Good Naked," which premieres in January, along with "Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead," which returns for a second season in October.

"The exciting thing about these shows is that they have personalities that speak one on one with the audience," Bibb said. "We're going to liven up the brand and establish a new attitude at Lifetime."

Bibb and Goldstein also will focus on Lifetime's acquired series, including "Reba" — a comedy they promoted when it was airing on the WB. Bibb called the sitcom starring Reba McEntire a "sleeping asset" for Lifetime, along with "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy."

Meanwhile, Lifetime's marketing and scheduling departments are set to relocate to the West Coast in first-quarter 2008. It's understood that the decision was partly based on a desire to have the departments in the same location as programming and also allow those executives easier access to Los Angeles-based producers.

As for Chesloff's departure, Daniels expressed her gratitude to the executive.

"I offered Leslie the opportunity to move with her position to Los Angeles, but unfortunately she declined," Daniels said. "During her tenure, Leslie made significant contributions to Lifetime, from acquisitions like the highly rated 'Reba' and the ABC smash hit 'Grey's Anatomy' to developing the successful 'New Movie Monday' franchise, as well as being an outstanding and beloved department leader, and we wish her success in all her future endeavors."

For her part, Chesloff said it was a hard decision to leave Lifetime, which she joined in October 2003.

"While it was very tempting to move to Los Angeles and continue working with Susanne and Andrea, relocating from New York would've been difficult for a variety of personal reasons," Chesloff said. "So with great reluctance, I have decided to leave Lifetime after four wonderful years. I will miss everyone, especially the best scheduling department in all of cable television, led by Frank DeRose and Kristine Hunsinger."
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