Wong gets nod as Lifetime chief
EmptyAndrea Wong, executive vp alternative programming, specials and late-night at ABC Entertainment, has been named president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment Services, replacing Betty Cohen, who resigned Wednesday. The announcement had been expected (HR 4/26).
Wong will oversee all the day-to-day operations for Lifetime Television, LMN, Lifetime Real Women and Lifetime Digital (including LifetimeTV.com), including advertising sales, affiliate sales, research, programming, public affairs, marketing, business and legal affairs and strategic planning and operations.
Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, and John Conomikes, director of the Hearst Corp., praised Wong in making the announcement. (Lifetime is a 50-50 joint venture of the Hearst Corp. and the Walt Disney Co.)
"Andrea is a straight shooter who is smart enough to know which challenges to undertake and fearless enough to see them through," Sweeney said. "She is also a true 'consumer-facing' executive, one who understands her audience and uses her experience to speak to them in compelling ways."
Added Conomikes: "Andrea is smart, creative and strategic. Her key relationships in the Hollywood community and her knowledge of the intricacies of the television business make her the perfect candidate to lead Lifetime into the future."
Wong has been a rising star at ABC. As head of the network's alternative department, she scored ABC's first reality hit with the 2000 series "The Bachelor" and its spinoff, "The Bachelorette." She built the network's "feel-good reality" brand with such hits as "Dancing With the Stars" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and such solid performers as "Supernanny" and "Wife Swap." In 2004, she was elevated to executive vp, adding oversight of ABC's late-night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to her portfolio.
Wong noted that her replacing Cohen "all went down very quickly."
"Yesterday, there was a flurry of activity, and here I am today," she said. "I am completely excited about it. Lifetime is something I've loved for many years, and I thought, 'How exciting to be running Lifetime, the No. 1 cable network for women.' "
For her new role, which will see her spending most of her time in New York, where the company is based, Wong also takes on the challenge of boosting the ratings of Lifetime, once a top-rated cable network that came in at No. 5 last year in primetime and saw the unsuccessful launches of such original series as the comedy "Lovespring International" and the drama "Angela's Eyes." Wong said it's too early to talk about specific plans, but one of her goals is to expand the network's audience.
"First and foremost, I want to get to know the team and get their perspective on what's working well, what the opportunities are and what we can work on as a team," she said. "I think there are great people there, and I'm excited to get to know them. It's also about growing the brand, the opportunity to grow Lifetime and evolve it, to appeal to even more women and deepen our relationship (with our viewers)."
She also praised president of entertainment Susanne Daniels and the three original drama series that her team is debuting in the summer as part of an ambitious launch slate -- "Army Wives," "Side Order of Life" and "State of Mind."
"Susanne is incredibly talented, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with her learning about her team and their development," Wong said. "The dramas launching this summer are fantastic; now it's about getting our marketing team in place to drive them," she added, noting that one of her priorities will be to hire a head of marketing to replace Martha Pease, who departed the network last month. Wong added that she doesn't anticipate any other executive hires or changes right away.
She also pointed out the importance of the original movies, which still bring in strong viewership numbers for Lifetime, and said she's not anticipating any major changes overall for the network.
As for her replacement at ABC, Wong said: "We have such a strong team, the transition will be really easy, but I'm going to defer to (ABC Entertainment president) Steve (McPherson) on how he's going to structure it."
In a statement, McPherson also stressed the deep executive bench in the network's alternative department.
"One of Andrea's greatest achievements has been the remarkable team she's assembled who will continue to build our brand with strong, innovative alternative programming."
He added: "We all wish Andrea the best as she steps into this next challenge. We know firsthand how much she brings to the table, and Lifetime is lucky to get her."
Vicki Dummer and John Saade, who were promoted to senior vp alternative series and specials in September, are expected to oversee the day-to-day operations of the department and are considered primary candidates to succeed Wong.
Wong joined ABC in August 1993 as a researcher for ABC News' "Primetime Live." She earned her executive stripes in 1998, when she was named vp alternative series and specials at ABC Entertainment. She was promoted to senior vp in 2000.