Movies in the picture at WE

With Hayden, net branches into Lifetime territory with original fare

Look out, Lifetime, WEtv is getting into the longform game.

The Rainbow Media-owned women's network plans to start making original movies, with an eye toward releasing the first title late next year.

WE has hired veteran longform programming executive Laurette Hayden as a consultant to help liaise with the talent community. She was senior vp longform at USA Network and vp original movies at Lifetime.

"We should be out there in the game making films for television," said Steve Cheskin, senior vp programming at WE.

A few years ago, the network's primetime programming lineup was mainly second-run theatrical films. When executive vp and GM Kim Martin came aboard in 2004, she started filling out the schedule with such original reality programming as "Bridezillas" and "Secret Lives of Women."

With the network up 44% in total viewers this year and a couple of nights of theatricals still performing well on the schedule, the executive team is ready to enter what it sees as the next logical stage in WE tv's evolution: producing the channel's own longform titles.

Top 10 cable network Lifetime tends to dominate this space, however, and its spinoff Lifetime Movie Network has grown by leaps and bounds.

"Lifetime does what they do, and we do what we do," Cheskin said. "We're going to do movies that fit our brand."

Part of that branding is finding movies that can be cross-promoted with the network's reality fare. A well-promoted original movie that involves a wedding, for example, could help bring new viewers to "Platinum Weddings" or "Wedding Central."

A budget for the endeavor was not disclosed, though Cheskin suggested that the funding was additive rather than pulled from the existing budget.

"We've been the fastest-growing network for women, percentage-wise," he said, "and our budget has been growing accordingly based on our success." (partialdiff)