A&E's Raven runs new venture

To assume oversight of Lifetime Entertainment Services

Abby Raven, president and CEO of the A&E TV Networks, is poised to expand her portfolio with oversight of Lifetime Entertainment Services.

Raven is expected to be named head of the new Hearst/ABC Disney/NBC Universal venture that would encompass 10 TV brands, including the male-skewing A&E and History and the female-oriented Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network.

Lifetime Entertainment Services president and CEO Andrea Wong would report to Raven.

The staffs of both companies were briefed Thursday on the pending deal, in which Hearst, Disney ABC and NBC Uni would restructure their A&E Networks partnership to include Lifetime.

Hearst and Disney ABC both own 37.5% of A&E Networks, and NBC Uni holds a 25% stake. Lifetime is a 50-50 partnership between Hearst and Disney ABC.

When the deal is finalized, Hearst's and Disney ABC's stakes in the joint venture are expected to rise, with NBC Uni's ownership sliding under 20% when Lifetime is introduced to the mix.

For NBC Uni, the move is considered a step toward eliminating its involvement in the venture. Insiders speculate that NBC Uni eventually would consider selling its minority stake in the new entity as big media companies consistently have cleaned up minority stakes in networks and other assets in recent years.

Because the A&E and Lifetime brands and target audiences are so different, programming and development for both are expected to stay separate, but the partners in the joint venture are looking for savings from other economy-of-scale moves, including merging sales and other operations for the channels, which reach 250 million households worldwide.